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Russian Submarine Accident: Officials Face Prospect of Recovering Dead, Raising Kursk

Aired August 21, 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: Their worst fears confirmed about the fate of the submarine Kursk, officials in Russia today face a staggering prospect: raising the boat, recovering the dead sailors, preserving two fragile nuclear reactors.

Joining us now with the latest on this catastrophe, CNN's Mike Hanna, who's been following the story for a week now in Moscow -- Mike.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, nine days ago, the submarine Kursk sank to the bottom of the ocean. Now it's been confirmed that all 118 members aboard the submarine are dead.

The confirmation came when a team of Norwegian divers managed to enter the submarine, managed to open an escape hatch at the back, and an internal hatch. They discovered that the internal compartments were flooded with water, which confirmed to them that the entire submarine was flooded and there was absolutely no chance that there would be any survivors aboard.

Well, this a crushing blow to the relatives of the crew members of the Kursk. For the past week, they've been waiting, hoping against the -- all possibilities that there would be some survivors clinging to that last, faint shred of hope, which has now been taken away.

The Russian government has pledged that it will assist the relatives in every way, possible. But the relatives, along with many members of the Russian public, deeply angered at the government's handling of the whole submarine crisis, angry that it took so long before even the crew list of those aboard the Kursk was released, angry that it took so long before international assistance was called for.

And It will not go unnoticed by the Russian public that after the Russian rescuers had struggled for one week to open that rear escape hatch, the team of Norwegian divers did so within 24 hours of hitting the water.

What happens next, the Norwegians have been asked to stay on and help with the recovery and salvage attempts. The Russian Navy says it will recover every single one of the bodies within in the submarine, although experts point out that this is a very difficult and, indeed, a very dangerous task. As to the future of the submarine itself, that is the subject of on going analysis by experts to decide whether to attempt to lift it or to leave it where it is. It weighs some 25,000 tons, it's estimated, flooded as it is with water, and to move it would be an immense engineering problem that could take weeks or even months. Experts point out, too, that to attempt to lift the submarine off the ocean floor could lead it to break up, causing a potential ecological crisis, Natalie.

Thank you, Mike Hanna, live from Moscow.

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