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Russian Submarine Accident: Rescue Vessel Unable to Access Damaged Escape Hatch

Aired August 18, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: More frustration today in the Barents Sea. Russian TV reporting that a diving vessel reached the crippled Kursk submarine, but rescue team members were unable to get inside and some of them barely escaped a catastrophe themselves.

CNN's Mike Hanna with the story now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After several long days, a submersible manages to dock at a Kursk escape hatch. But then another blow to the hopes of rescuers and to the chances of finding members of the crew still alive: the escape hatch at the rear of the vessel appears to be damaged.

ARKADY MAMONTOV, RUSSIAN TELEVISION REPORTER (through translator): Early in the morning, one of the capsules managed to connect to the escape hatch of the submarine but the platform of the escape hatch was deformed by some powerful blow. And when they began pumping out water, the water wouldn't drain from there. It kept refilling.

HANNA: Earlier, the Navy said video revealed the submarine's front escape hatches were damaged beyond repair. There are believed to be only three escape hatches on the submarine.

Attempts to dock with the submarine continued. Then a near disaster, forcing one of the rescue capsules to make an emergency ascent.

MAMONTOV (through translator): It took the capsule only minutes to come to the surface. The capsule was half flooded. The people aboard had red eyes. Some kind of technical malfunction happened and it barely got on board the rescue ship. The six rescuers aboard the capsule were on the verge of a catastrophe.

HANNA: On the way to the rescue scene, a British team with a specialized mini sub, the LR5. But with all the escape hatches damaged, will this vessel be any more successful than the Russian submersibles?

(END VIDEOTAPE) HANNA: And another question, with the lives of the rescuers clearly at risk, at what point will hope of finding the survivors be abandoned? -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And, Mike, is the British rescue still on schedule for tomorrow -- an attempt?

HANNA: Yes, indeed. The latest news we have is that the vessel carrying that British rescue team are due in the search area in the course of tomorrow, probably late in the day. At this particular time it's estimated they will arrive around 6:00 in the evening. But -- so the British team are still on their way. We heard earlier that they will attempt to open that hatch as well. They have, they believe, the best equipment to attempt to do so, but no promise of any success, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Mike Hanna in Moscow. We'll continue to follow developments on this dramatic story.

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