MOSCOW- Russian Railways has halted passenger and cargo rail transport between the northern port of Murmansk and the rest of Russia after the collapse of the only railway bridge linking the two, the national rail company said on Tuesday.
The foundations of the bridge across the river Kola were washed away by rapidly melting snow and strong flows of water on Saturday, and the bridge gave way on Monday, the Emergencies Ministry said. No-one was hurt during the incident, officials added.
"This route is the only one, so a temporary ban has been imposed on the loading of all goods to the Murmansk transport hub after the damage to the bridge," Russian Railways told Reuters.
The region's governor, Andrey Chibis, said authorities aimed to link Murmansk back up to the nationwide railway network this month and that they were accelerating existing plans to build a new bridge, the TASS news agency reported.
Russia's Investigative Committee, which handles probes into serious crimes, said it had opened a criminal investigation into what it said was a suspected violation of transport safety. It gave no further details.
The Murmansk Commercial Seaport, which is owned by coal mining company SUEK, handled turnover of 17.6 million tonnes of coal last year. Coal is transported by rail to the port for export.
SUEK did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Russian Railways did not say how long its ban would be in place. The Kommersant newspaper cited an unnamed source saying it will take months to repair the bridge.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Additional reporting by Maxim Rodionov and Anastasia Lyrchikova; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Louise Heavens and Emelia Sithole-Matarise) ((Tom.Balmforth@thomsonreuters.com;))