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Kursk dives resume as storms abate

Kursk
Cables will be attached to the Kursk to lift it off the sea bed  


MOSCOW, Russia -- A break in poor weather over the past few days has allowed an international team of divers to resume their preparation to lift the sunken Kursk nuclear submarine.

The operation to cut into the wreck and clear the immediate area resumed on Monday after several days of intermittent storms, The Associated Press reported.

Thick fog and gale-force winds at the Barents Sea site had forced divers to suspend their work on Sunday -- the third such delay in a week.

The delays have led to increasing concerns that the massive submarine may not be ready for the raising operation.

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With the early arrival of stormy weather in the Barents Sea, the operation to lift the Kursk has become a race against time.

But officials maintain that the mid-September target date for the raising operation had not changed, although much work remains.

During the weekend, Vice Admiral Mkihail Motzak of the Russian Northern Fleet said he remained confident his crew will complete their work by the end of September.

"We are aiming for the period between September 24 and 29 and leaving us some room for possible bad weather in September," he said.

However, one of three foreign firms that Moscow contracted to lift the Kursk has said that once preparatory work is done and all necessary equipment is in place, the actual lifting may not begin until mid-October.

Russian Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said on Monday that the dive teams were continuing to clear out a space between the inner and outer hulls above the third compartment.

The divers have already finished cutting 22 of 26 holes in the thick hull through which steel cables will be fitted.

The Kursk suffered explosions and sank last August, killing all 118 men aboard.

As the lifting operation continued, details of a letter written by one of the Kursk's crew appear to show he had a premonition of the disaster that was about to befall the submarine.

In a book to be released later this year, author Captain Vladimir Shigin has compiled interviews with many of the crew's parents, wives, friends, teachers, fellow servicemen and neighbours.

Extracts of the book -- titled Empty Moorage -- have been posted on the official Kursk Web site (www.141kursk.org).

They include a letter to a friend by Alexei Korkin, a 19-year-old bilge specialist aboard Kursk, whose body was among those recovered following the disaster and buried with full service honours.

Pontoon
One of two giants pontoons that will lift the Kursk into dry dock  

Korkin writes: "I have all kinds of nightmares. Some kind of mystification. It's good we're at our base, not at sea. We would sink, that's for sure. Just like the (also lost Russian submarine) Komsomolets.

"Imagine that! My snapshot would always hang on the wall at the headquarters of our division and the fleet. And the caption under the photo would read 'Awarded the title of Hero of Russia for heroism and courage - posthumously.' My name would be known all over the world!"

He continued prophetically: "I have this premonition that the world is caving in, that everything is crumbling...I have this feeling that something inevitable is going to happen (it would be great if it was my discharge.)"

Russian officials maintain that a faulty torpedo set off a series of explosions onboard the six-year old vessel, which sank during naval exercises.

Once raised, the Kursk's will be transported to the Russian navy's Roslyakovo ship repair plant near the port of Murmansk.

Using two purpose-built pontoons, the submarine will then be lifted into a dry dock where experts are to examine the wreck for clues as to what caused Russia's worst naval disaster.






RELATED STORIES:
• Kursk salvage faces new delays
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• Day of tears for Kursk victims
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• Russia mourns on Kursk anniversary
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