Mission to recover bodies from sub is delayed

Associated Press

MURMANSK, Russia — The deep-sea diving mission to retrieve crewmen’s remains from the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk was set back because of bad weather on the Barents Sea, a top Russian official said Wednesday.

British, Scandinavian and Russian divers departed overnight from the Norwegian port of Hammerfest on the mother ship Regalia. They were expected by early Friday at the site in the Barents Sea where the submarine sank, said Birger Haraldseid, a spokesman for the Norwegian subsidiary of Halliburton. The Dallas-based oil services company is working with the Russia’s Rubin military design bureau to organize the recovery.

But Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said a gale buffeted the sea Wednesday, and he said the recovery work would begin only when the weather had improved, according to his spokeswoman, Oksana Onishchenko.

Haraldseid said he had heard that the weather was fine.

"I talked to the radio room on board (the Regalia), and they said there was exceptionally nice weather," Haraldseid said. "We have not received any word to hold back."

Russian officials had said the Regalia, normally used in Norway’s offshore oil industry, was capable of supporting underwater work in a force-six gale.

Only mild winds were felt Wednesday in the Arctic port of Murmansk, about 95 miles south of the site where the submarine is resting about 330 feet below the sea. Yekaterina Terentyeva, a meteorologist at a Murmansk weather station, said conditions at the site were expected to improve toTday.

All 118 seamen on board the Kursk died in the Aug. 12 accident, when the submarine sank after being torn by an explosion. Russian officials have not yet determined the cause.

Russian officials have issued increasingly pessimistic predictions of whether any remains can be recovered.

Col. Gen. Valery Manilov suggested that the government might decide against doing so, and said the decision would come "after an additional examination of the disaster site and the submarine itself," the Interfax news agency reported.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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