Report: Russia May Have Snagged Stranded Sub - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8/5/05

Report: Russia May Have Snagged Stranded Sub

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A rescue vessel is reported to be attempting to drag a disabled mini-submarine carrying seven sailors to shallower waters off Russia's Pacific coast.

Interfax news agency also quoted Adm. Victor Federov, the commander of Russia's Pacific Fleet, as saying Friday the vessel was trying to raise the submarine as it was being towed in about 190 meters (600 feet) of water.

However, although Federov said some sort of object was secured and was being towed, it was unclear if it was the sub. Underwater cameras are being placed to identify the object.

"We are now doing all that we can to lift it all, as a whole complex. We are already working on this. We have lowered down all the tow-ropes," Reuters reported Federov as saying on Rossiya television.

"Now our rescue ships are trying to lift and drag it towards shallower waters."

The drama started on Thursday when the AS-28 mini-submarine became entangled in a fishing net during a military exercise off the Kamchatka peninsula.

The rescue effort was said to be a race against time with only a limited amount of oxygen for the sailors.

One Russian naval spokesman said Friday the sailors had 24 hours of oxygen left, but a news report quoted another official later saying the sailors had enough air to last until Monday.

The sailors could not swim to the surface nor can divers reach the vessel because it is too deep at 190 meters (623 feet) below the surface, according to Russian Navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo.

The situation was different to the Kursk submarine disaster of August 12, 2000 in which the Russian authorities rejected offers of help.

This time Russia swiftly requested assistance from the United States and Japan. Britain has also offered help and was due to airlift rescue equipment.

A high-level overnight meeting of Naval officials in Hawaii decided to send a contingent of 30 U.S. sailors and two unmanned rescue vehicles called Super Scorpios to the Pacific waters, U.S. Navy sources told CNN.

The sailors and the rescue vehicles were due to be loaded onto an Air Force C-5 and will be departing from the San Diego North Island Naval Station.

The crew and the vehicles would be taken to a Russian surface ship, from which the crew would drop the Super Scorpios over the side.

The underwater rescue vehicles -- equipped with video cameras and robotic arms that can cut up to one inch of steel cable -- would be used to untangle the mini-sub from the netting, the Navy sources said.

Russian authorities have had contact with the crew members all along. They understand their situation and are not panicking, Dygalo said.

They were asked to lower their physical activity level, save electricity, and try to keep themselves warm. He said crew members had enough food and water for five days.

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