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One Person Reported Dead in Soviet Tanker Explosion

March 8, 1985

MOSCOW (AP) _ An explosion aboard a Soviet tanker in the Baltic port of Ventspils killed one person and wounded five, a Latvian official told a Western reporter Thursday.

Aris Jansons of the Latvian Foreign Ministry in Riga told a reporter for Scandinavian news agencies in Moscow that the explosion occurred Wednesday night about 10 minutes after dockworkers began loading diesel fuel onto the 16,400-ton Ludvig Svoboda.

The reporter quoted Jansons as saying six crew members were injured when the blast occurred and that one later died in hospital. The others were reported out of danger.

The tanker was seriously damaged in a fire caused by the explosion and windows in nearby port buildings were blown out by the force of the blast, Jlansons was quoted as saying.

An official of the Maritime Fleet Ministry in Moscow had earlier confirmed that a ″local explosion″ occurred on the Soviet-registered Ludvig Svoboda and that four people were injured. But he said it was ″nothing serious.″

A Finnish shipping source had earlier said earlier the tanker caught fire and sank.

Shipping sources in London, who spoke on condition they not be identified, reported the explosion temporarily closed the Latvian port, a key shipping point for the Soviet Union, which is the world’s largest producer of gas and oil.

The Maritime Fleet Ministry official said the port was operating normally Thursday.

Jansons was quoted by the Scandinavian reporter as saying that residents of Ventspils were not harmed by the blast. According to a 1982 Soviet reference book, Ventspils has a population of 50,000. The city’s center lies a few miles from the port.

The Associated Press placed telephone calls to Jansons in Riga, capital of the Latvian republic. But Moscow operators said his numbers were either busy or did not answer Thursday night.

It could not be immediately determined where the tanker was headed. It was also not clear whether the fuel was being loaded to power the vessel or as cargo.

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