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Divers in Russia Begin Work to Raise Kursk

Recovery: The plan is to drill holes and attach cables that will be used to hoist the submarine.

July 22, 2001|From Reuters

MOSCOW — Divers plunged to the bottom of the Barents Sea on Saturday, beginning the long-awaited operation to raise the sunken submarine Kursk from the sea floor, the Russian navy said.

The first group of divers was lowered in a diving bell to the wreck to stencil holes that will be cut into the submarine's hull, navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said in a statement.

A second group went down six hours later with cutting equipment and a third was to follow to begin actual cutting.

"The operation to raise the Kursk is going to plan," Dygalo said.

The nuclear-powered submarine sank last August, killing all 118 on board. Russia now says explosions of its torpedoes, through unknown causes, brought the Kursk down.

Last year, divers recovered 12 bodies from the wreck, 350 feet below the Barents Sea north Murmansk, before winter forced them to halt salvage operations.

President Vladimir V. Putin has vowed to raise the sub, both to recover the bodies of the crew and to dispose of its nuclear reactors. Some environmentalists say they believe that burying the reactors under concrete on the sea floor would be safer.

The plan to raise the Kursk calls for its damaged torpedo bay to be sawed off and abandoned on the sea floor for the time being. Holes will be drilled into the rest of the hull and cables fastened, lashing the submarine to a giant floating pontoon.

The 13,900-ton submarine will then be hoisted to the surface and towed into port.

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