MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- Stormy weather is hampering deep
sea divers as they seek to penetrate the hull of the sunken
Russian submarine Kursk in a bid to retrieve the bodies of 118
The Russian and Norwegian divers have managed to remove a
tough rubber lining from the outer hull that had slowed down
work on Saturday, Itar-Tass news agency reported from the Arctic
Barents Sea, where the Kursk sank on August 12.
But looming storms on Sunday are threatening to make it
difficult for the divers to cut their way to the inner hull and
create an opening to begin the planned retrieval of the remains
of those killed in Russia's worst nuclear submarine disaster.
"The weather has finally worsened. There is a very
strong wind and low clouds," NTV television said in a live
broadcast from the far north region.
It added that waves in the Barents Sea could reach as high as
two metres (six feet). Itar-Tass said a northwesterly wind was
bringing with it cold Arctic air.
"Forecasters predict there will be a storm in the second
half of the day, which will significantly complicate the work of
the Russian and Norwegian divers," it said.
Interfax news agency said thick fog, rain and snow had
reduced visibility in the area of the salvage operation and was
preventing helicopter flights.
Navy commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov instructed divers
on Friday not to attempt anything that might endanger their
"You should think of your lives and your families,"
Divers face grave risks
The divers, working from the Norwegian offshore platform
Regalia, have to make seven holes in the Kursk to reach each
corner of the 154 metre (505 feet) sub, badly damaged by
A spokesman for Russia's Northern Fleet has said penetration
of the inner hull could be completed by Tuesday.
The divers have so far concentrated on making holes in the
outer hull of the submarine's eighth and ninth compartments, but
progress has been hampered both by the rubber lining and pipes
filled with compressed air.
Divers could face grave danger trying to enter the Kursk, not
only from intense cold and darkness 108 metres (330 feet) down,
but also from jagged metal debris inside the wreck that could
puncture their survival suits.
The operation, which also involves testing for radiation
leaks, is being run by the Norwegian arm of U.S. oil services
Norwegian divers have been doing most of the survey work and
cutting holes in the submarine, but only Russian military divers
will actually enter the vessel.
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