Reuters News Agency
Murmansk, Russia — Salvage teams
started Monday lifting the wreck of the Kursk nuclear submarine from the
Arctic seabed, where it has lain ever since it sank last year with 118
crew members on board.
"The Kursk has risen from the ocean floor. It started rising at 3:45
a.m. [local time]," said Larissa van Seumeren, spokeswoman for the Dutch
company Mammoet contracted by Moscow to lift the Kursk. "We are going to
be lifting for the next ten hours."
The Kursk rose off the ocean floor more than three hours after the
salvage crews began trying to winch the vessel's stern from the grip of
the muddy Barents Sea floor.
The lifting pressure was then transferred slowly forward in a delicate
operation aimed at retrieving the submarine intact.
"The vessel is completely loose now and free from mud," she added. "It
came off quite easily, easier than we expected."
The nerve-wracking task of freeing the giant submarine from the mud
prior to hauling it to the surface — a journey of 100 metres — started
after divers installed radiation monitors at the wreck and made
Ms. van Seumeren said the operation would take about 10 hours as the
Kursk is lifted through the waters at the stately pace of some 10 metres
Vladimir Navrotsky, spokesman for Russia's Northern Fleet said the
submarine would be suspended close to the seabed for an hour before it
started moving to the surface.
"If after an hour, all the cables are holding up the weight well, the
actual lifting will start," he said.
The Kursk, one of Russia's most advanced submarines, plunged to the
seabed after two still-unexplained explosions ripped through its bow on
August 12, 2000.
The disaster, a devastating blow to Russia's proud naval tradition, put
the spotlight on the country's ailing military.
President Vladimir Putin, who celebrated his 49th birthday on Sunday,
was roundly attacked for his initial handling of the crisis, notably
failing to end a holiday and return to Moscow.
Mr. Putin later vowed to raise the Kursk at any cost and return the
sailors' remains to their families for burial.
The lifting operation was set for September 15 but bad weather and
technical difficulties delayed it.
Once raised, the vessel will be strapped to the Giant 4 lifting barge
and taken to dry-dock at the town of Roslyakovo outside Murmansk, where
experts will seek to determine the cause of the disaster and cut out its
arsenal of cruise missiles.
The wreck will then be sealed and towed to the nearby shipyard at
Snezhnogorsk where its nuclear fuel will be unloaded and the vessel