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Kursk operation enters final stage

The salvage vessel Mayo, foreground, and the Giant 4 barge are in position over the sunken Kursk
The salvage vessel Mayo, foreground, and the Giant 4 barge are in position over the sunken Kursk  

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- An international salvage team is reported to be in the final stages of an operation to lift the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk, taking advantage of good weather in the Barents Sea.

The teams may be able to begin 10-12 hour process of lifting the Kursk late on Sunday night or early on Monday morning Moscow time, the head of the Special Task Expedition, Vice Admiral Mikhail Motsak told Interfax news agency.

Local Russian media reported that teams have been testing the 26 massive steel cables attached to the submarine that will hoist the 18,000 ton vessel toward the surface, where it will be latched to the bottom of the Dutch-owned Giant 4 lifting barge.

That ship will then transport the Kursk to a dry dock near Murmansk, Russia, where it will be examined.

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Vice Admiral Motsak told reporters that preparatory work on Sunday evening will take six hours, after which divers will, once more, inspect the vessel before the lift begins.

A major factor complicating the raising is the suction force of the mud into which the Kursk sank. Teams have been putting pressure on what are called "grippers" -- hooks that secure the cables to the submarine's hull.

They will then begin a period of rocking the stern, the aft-section of the Kursk, to free it from the mud.

Radiation monitoring equipment will be used as the Kursk is being raised. Russian experts believe the nuclear reactors aboard the Kursk have not been damaged.

The salvage operation will not include lifting the nose of the submarine. It was detached from the rest of the submarine by salvage crews and may be lifted next year.

Investigators believe that section, in which torpedoes were stored, may contain the key to why the accident happened.

The lifting operation will require calm seas and will take around 12 hours.

It had been planned to raise the Kursk on September 15, but the operation has been repeatedly delayed by storms and technical problems.

The nuclear-powered submarine sank on August 12, 2000 after two explosions ripped through it, killing all 118 men aboard.

A Russian investigatory commission has not yet publicly announced the cause of the tragedy.

After the operation to raise the Kursk, the submarine will be clamped under the barge. It will then be towed to a dry dock in Roslyakovo near the port of Murmansk.

Once in dock, the navy will remove the remains of the crew and 22 Granit supersonic cruise missiles.

-- CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty contributed to this report


• Weather delays Kursk operation
October 3, 2001
• Kursk dives resume as storms abate
August 27, 2001
• Kursk salvage faces new delays
August 26, 2001
• Day of tears for Kursk victims
August 12, 2001
• Russia mourns on Kursk anniversary
August 12, 2001

• Kursk Operation
• The Government of the Russian Federation

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