Storms subside and Kursk submarine recovery effort resumes

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The Independent Online

A fierce storm that forced the suspension of efforts to recover bodies from the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk lessened this morning and Norwegian divers resumed work underwater, a Navy official said.

A fierce storm that forced the suspension of efforts to recover bodies from the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk lessened this morning and Norwegian divers resumed work underwater, a Navy official said.

The Russian-Norwegian mission to recover some of the bodies of the 118 men who died aboard the Kursk was put on hold Friday because winds of up to 56 mph tossed the mission's ships so hard on the surface of the Barents Sea that divers 356 feet below risked being jerked on their tethers.

"The divers went down to the submarine and started to remove rubber coating in advance of cutting a hole in the ninth compartment of the submarine," Vadim Serga, a spokesman for the Northern Fleet said.

The ninth compartment is where the emergency escape hatch is located. After the Kursk sank, Russian submersibles were unable to connect with the hatch, but Norwegian divers who followed managed to open it a week after the tragedy and determine that there were no survivors.

Although the winds subsided, there were still 18-foot waves at the recovery site, an aide to Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo told the Interfax news agency. He said safety precautions taken by the Norwegian divers made it possible to resume the operation, but Russian divers could not work until the waves were less than 12 feet.

Divers recovered four bodies from the Kursk's aft compartments on Wednesday.

Officials found a note in the pocket of a submariner identified as Lt. Dmitry Kolesnikov saying that 23 sailors had remained trapped alive in the ninth compartment for at least several hours after the powerful explosions that sank the submarine on Aug. 12.

"All the crew from the sixth, seventh and eighth compartments went over to the ninth," the note said. "There are 23 people here. We made this decision as a result of the accident. None of us can get to the surface."

The cause of the disaster has not been determined. Russian officials have focused on the theory that the blasts were set off by a collision with another, possibly foreign, ship. But others have said the most likely cause was a torpedo exploding in its tube.

A memorial ceremony initially planned for Saturday in Severomorsk, but postponed because the gale prevented helicopters from bringing the four bodies ashore, will be held on Sunday, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

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