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Second Kursk note tells of fire
MOSCOW, Russia -- Sailors huddled in the sunken submarine Kursk struggled against carbon monoxide from a fire, according to a second note found on one of the crewmen's bodies, a Russian government official has said.
Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov read part of the note after a meeting of the commission investigating the August 12 disaster.
The note was written around 1 p.m. that day, Klebanov said, about an hour and a half after the submarine was torn apart by explosions and sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea. All 118 crew aboard died.
Klebanov said the note read: "There are 23 people in the ninth compartment. We feel bad ... we're weakened by the effects of carbon monoxide from the fire... the pressure is increasing in the compartment... if we head for the surface we won't survive the compression."
"We won't hold out for more than 24 hours," the note's final words said, according to Klebanov, who was speaking on ORT government television.
Klebanov said he could not read the whole note, but would give the "sense" of it.
He then read from a piece of paper and appeared to give at least some of the contents word for word. The note itself was not shown.
The note was similar to one found on the body of another sailor, also in the ninth compartment toward the rear. That note, written by Lt. Dmitry Kolesnikov, told of how 23 sailors had crowded into the dark compartment but were unable to get out an escape hatch.
Kolesnikov's family said the government told them the men had died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The odourless, colourless gas is a byproduct of burning and can cause headaches before its victims become unconscious.
Klebanov also said that pictures taken of the submarine, during the operation that recovered 12 of the bodies, has produced new evidence supporting the theory that the accident was caused by a collision with another vessel, possibly a foreign one, news reports said.
The evidence includes videotape footage showing a dent in the submarine's upper section, he said.
But Klebanov said other possible causes of the accident are being considered and that no final conclusion had yet been reached.
Russian officials have said the disaster was most likely caused by a collision, pointing to the presence of foreign military vessels in the Barents Sea during the military exercises in which the Kursk was taking part.
Both Britain and the United States had submarines in the Barents Sea, but deny their vessels were near the Kursk.
Other observers have said the sinking most likely was caused by a torpedo exploding in a tube.
The sinking was a national trauma for Russia, both because the demise of one of its most modern vessels underlined the cash-strapped Navy's troubles and because of the government's slow and apparently confused response.
Russia held off for days on accepting foreign offers of help even as its own divers struggled ineffectually to reach and open the Kursk's escape hatch.
Norwegian divers eventually opened it within hours of arriving on the scene, but found the submarine filled with water.
Earlier this week, an operation to retrieve bodies from the submarine was abandoned when the Russian navy said it was too dangerous to continue.
Damaged Kursk threatens divers' safety
Governments on the WWW: Russian Federation
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