Specialist divers to assist British rescue mission

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The Independent Online

A team of 12 Norwegian deep sea divers trained on North Sea oil rigs is expected to help guide the British LR5 mini-submarine on to the escape hatch at the rear of the Kursk, which lies roughly 108 metres (357ft) below the surface of the Barents Sea.

A team of 12 Norwegian deep sea divers trained on North Sea oil rigs is expected to help guide the British LR5 mini-submarine on to the escape hatch at the rear of the Kursk, which lies roughly 108 metres (357ft) below the surface of the Barents Sea.

The team is highly experienced in "saturation" diving, which involves diving in specially strengthened suits using special air mixtures. After deep dives, they have to spend days in special decompression chambers to avoid the "bends".

The LR5, which has two main propellers and four extra thrusters, is expected to manoeuvre into position over the hatch. But the vessel may have to compete with strong currents and damage to the hatch caused by the catastrophic explosions on board the Kursk.

The Norwegian divers, highly experienced in underwater repairs to oil rigs and pipelines, will help position the LR5's angled "mating skirt" exactly on to the hatch. If the manoeuvre succeeds, two Russian crew on board the rescue sub and the LR5's own rescue compartment operator will attempt to open the hatch from above.

Despite fears that the hatch cannot be opened from outside, British defence officials are confident the rescue team will succeed. The hatch involved is identical to those used on Kilo Class submarines which the LR5 team has used for training sessions.

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