Weather improves as divers resume body search in sunken submarine

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The Independent Online

Weather on the Barents Sea improved today aloowing Russian and Norwegian divers to resume their search for bodies in the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk, a navy official said.

Weather on the Barents Sea improved today aloowing Russian and Norwegian divers to resume their search for bodies in the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk, a navy official said.

The divers cut an opening in the inner hull over the fourth compartment in the vessel's forward area, Northern Fleet spokesman Capt. Vadim Serga said.

"As weather reports predicted, surface conditions were much improved this morning at the site of the disaster," allowing the divers to resume their efforts to recover the bodies of the 118 sailors who died when the submarine exploded and sank August 12, Serga said.

He said the divers completed cutting a 12 centimeter (4.8 inch) opening in the inner hull. "A larger hole will be cut later to give the divers access inside the boat," he said.

High winds and snow later Friday forced a temporary halt to divers' efforts to recover bodies from the Kursk.

The divers moved their search for bodies toward less damaged areas of the vessel on Friday, after failing to enter a shattered third forward compartment.

Before work was suspended Friday, Serga said they hoped to find more crew remains in the fourth compartment, which served as living quarters for the crew. The compartment held bunks, a kitchen and a room for meetings and social activity.

Twelve bodies have been recovered so far, all of them from the submarine's stern.

At least 23 sailors survived the initial explosion in the submarine's stern, as indicated by a letter found on the body of Lt. Dmitry Kolesnikov. Of the 12 bodies recovered, eight had been identified as of Friday.

The cause of the Kursk's sinking remains unknown. Russian officials favor a theory that a collision with a foreign submarine set off the powerful blasts. But others have said the most likely reason was a torpedo exploding in its tube because of a technical malfunction.

A state commission of inquiry into the sinking of the Kursk will convene in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, the Interfax news agency reported Saturday. It said that the diving operation will be completed by the end of next week.

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