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Explosives halt Kursk lifting

Raised Kursk
Fifty-six bodies have been recovered since the submarine was raised  


MOSCOW, Russia -- Investigators searching the wreckage of the Kursk nuclear submarine were forced to retreat when they saw undetonated explosives scattered around its forward section.

More than 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of explosives from torpedo warheads were blown into the Kursk's second and third compartments by the huge explosions which sank the vessel, the chief prosecutor of the Northern Fleet, Vladimir Mulov, said.

The explosives were safely removed by Monday morning, and prosecutors resumed their work, Mulov said in remarks carried by Interfax and monitored by The Associated Press.

The Kursk's 118-strong crew died when powerful explosions sent the submarine plunging to the sea bottom during military exercises on August 12 last year.

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The submarine was lifted from the Barents Sea floor and brought to dry dock last month.

Investigators have pulled 56 bodies from the Kursk since it was raised, and 49 of them have been identified, Mulov said. Twelve bodies were removed by divers during an operation last year.

Funeral services are now being held around the country for the sailors whose bodies were recovered.

St Petersburg city officials plan to hold one funeral for all the local Kursk victims and have prepared 30 graves at the Serafimov cemetery next to the graves of two Kursk sailors buried there last year.

Navy specialists have also removed 16 out of the Kursk's 22 Granit cruise missiles, but had to suspend the work because massive distortions of the hull did not allow the remaining weapons to be lifted out by crane.

The navy will cut them out of the hull along with their containers when the submarine is dismantled.

Investigators hope that a close study of the wreck will help determine the exact cause of the Kursk's sinking on August 12, 2000.

Russian authorities now say that the tragedy was triggered by a practice torpedo which exploded, causing a detonation of combat torpedoes in the bow.

Officials said the initial explosion could have been caused by an internal flaw, a collision with another vessel or a World War II mine.

Next year, the navy plans to raise fragments of the Kursk's bow, which was sawn off and left on the seabed because of fears it could break off and destabilise the lifting operation.



 
 
 
 


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