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Kursk salvage divers set sail

Frans van Seumeren, left, heads the company in charge of the operation  

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- A diving team assigned to raise the nuclear submarine Kursk has departed on its voyage to the Barents Sea.

The divers and crew left on board the diving vessel Mayo on Friday from Aberdeen, Scotland, and are expected to reach the wreck site around the middle of next week, Russian navy spokesman Igor Dygalo told the Interfax news agency.

The Kursk was ripped apart by two unexplained explosions last August, killing all 118 men on board. It sank about 250 kilometres (155 miles) off the Norwegian coast and is currently submerged under 108 metres (355 feet) of water.

The underwater experts have been training aboard the Mayo in Aberdeen on Scotland's northeast coast for the last few days.

graphic Raising of the Kursk

  • Russia's military plight
  • Kursk namesake
  • Comparative sizes
  • Diagram: Last refuge
  • Damage to the sub
  • Timeline of sinking
  • News search
  • Message board
  • Quick vote
  • In-depth: Sub disaster
  • Download salvage images
  • Kursk salvage animation
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Russian officials said last week that robots would be lowered into the near-freezing sea with a view to lifting the wreck in mid-September, Reuters reported.

Dutch salvage company Mammoet and Rotterdam-based marine services firm Smit International are overseeing the task of raising the Kursk.

Their joint Web site says a special pontoon 140 metres long and 36 metres wide (460 ft by 120 ft) will hoist the submarine from the seabed on 26 cables to just below the sea's surface, and tow it to the Russian port of Murmansk.

The Mayo, a high-tech diving support ship, is owned by the Norwegian-Scottish company DSND Subsea, based in Aberdeen.

The operation to raise the submarine has sparked controversy, with calls for the vessel to be buried under concrete to minimise the danger from its two nuclear reactors.

Russian officials have said they chose to lift the wreck to avoid any risk of radiation pollution, which ecologists say could start leaking from the body as reactor protection deteriorates.

The exact cause of the Kursk disaster still remains a mystery. Officials say it may have been the result of a torpedo explosion that set off the rest of the arsenal on board, yet the cause of the torpedo blast itself has not been identified.

• Russia 'to lift Kursk by September'
May 14, 2001
• Kursk nuclear claim denied
April 5, 2001
• Russia confirms plan to lift Kursk
March 22, 2001
• Torpedo linked to Kursk tragedy
February 13, 2001
• Posthumous award for lost Kursk crew
December 9, 2000
• Second Kursk note tells of fire
November 9, 2000
• Divers recover Kursk bodies
October 30, 2000

• The Kursk Foundation
• The Russian Government
• RNS Kursk Memorial and Information
• Mammoet & Smit International

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