Storms stop Kursk rescue operation -
October 23, 2000

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The Regalia
Operations are being conducted in high winds  

October 23, 2000
Web posted at: 2:32 p.m. EDT (1832 GMT)

MURMANSK, Russia -- Bad weather has forced divers to suspend attempts to recover the bodies of the crew of the sunken Kursk nuclear submarine.

The divers have sliced through the submarine's inner hull, but the storm in the Barents Sea, off northeast Russia, has postponed work indefinitely.

Winds of 25 meters per second (56 mph) buffeted the Regalia mother-ship, which serves as the headquarters for the retrieval operation.

The divers working on the dangerous operation are attached to the Regalia by tethers and risked being jerked about if the storm worsens, officials said.

It was the fourth day of the risky operation to cut holes in the submarine and attempt to remove the bodies of the 118 submariners who died when the Kursk sank on August 12.

Before the storm broke Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov had hoped the first bodies could be brought to the surface by as early as Tuesday.

Top Russian military officials have also warned that safety concerns -- including fears about the Kursk's two nuclear reactors, and threats to divers from jagged metal debris inside the wreck -- could cause further delays to the work being carried out 108 metres (330 feet) below the surface.

Divers have been working since Friday, manipulating robot arms and specialised cutting equipment that sprays pressurised water and diamond dust to slice through the hull.

Over the weekend, divers carved a passage towards the back of the vessel as far as the thick, pressurised inner hull and a team on Monday began to slice through the five-centimetre (two-inch) thick sheet of steel, said Navrotsky.

The Kursk
Diamond dust has been used to slice through the hull  

Divers over the weekend punched a test hole and found no radiation, oil or air bubbles inside the compartment.

The operation is being run by the Norwegian arm of U.S. oil services firm Halliburton with the Regalia, normally used for underwater work in Norway's offshore oil industry, at anchor above the Kursk, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Russia's Arctic Coast.

Norwegian divers have been doing most of the survey work and cutting holes in the submarine. But only Russian military divers will actually go inside the vessel.

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