Divers Brave Danger to Search for Bodies in Kursk
Russian divers Monday scoured inside the fourth compartment of the sunken Kursk submarine for bodies, despite the risk of puncturing their diving suits and oxygen cables on its jagged edges.
More than 24 hours since entering the submarine's mid-section in the hope of recovering up to 12 sailors' bodies, the team of divers pursued their round-the-clock efforts, Northern Fleet spokesman Vladimir Navrotsky said.
"The divers have not managed yet to find any bodies in the fourth compartment. All night they worked on its upper level, but they didn't manage to get very far inside because of the debris," he told AFP.
"Some of them are very jagged and represent an additional difficulty and danger for the divers because they can tear their oxygen cables and diving suits," Navrotsky added, speaking from this Arctic port city.
Working in four-hour shifts, three-man teams of Russian and Norwegian divers had managed only to advance one and a half meters (five feet) inside the compartment, Navrotsky said.
A Russian diver inside the submarine was working to clear debris while a second Russian diver was positioned on the hull and a third Norwegian diver remained in the team's bell-shaped underwater rescue vessel.
Atrocious visibility in the pitch darkness of between 20 and 50 centimeters (20 inches) was also hampering their work, 108 meters below the icy Arctic waters of the Barents Sea.
Twelve sailors usually would have been stationed in the fourth compartment, which housed living quarters, a medical point, kitchen, canteen and a sauna. Only 12 bodies -- all of which have been identified -- have been recovered so far in the operation which authorities announced Saturday will end November 11, three weeks since it began.
The Kursk sank on August 12, 150 kilometers (90 miles) off the northern coast of Russia, after two powerful explosions sent Russia's most modern nuclear submarine to the bottom of the Barents Sea, killing all 118 aboard.
The Russian navy has yet to publish its official report into the cause of the tragedy, but an unidentified naval source told Interfax news agency Sunday that a NATO submarine was certainly to blame.
"The Russian navy command is now certain that the reason for the loss of the Kursk was a collision with a foreign submarine," the source said.
"There is only one problem -- to establish 100 percent which of two NATO member countries this submarine belongs to."
Russia has said two US and one British submarines were in the Barents Sea area when the Kursk nuclear-powered submarine sank.
London has categorically denied that any British vessel was anywhere near the scene, while the United States also insists that its submarines, which monitored the explosions aboard the Kursk, were not involved -- SEVEROMORSK (AFP)
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