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07 Aug 2005 10:10
A Russian mini-submarine that was trapped for nearly three days under the Pacific Ocean surfaced on Sunday with all seven people aboard alive after a British remote-controlled vehicle cut away the undersea cables that had snarled it.
All seven aboard the AS-28 mini-submarine appeared to be in satisfactory condition, naval spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo said.
They were examined in the clinic of a naval ship, then transferred to a larger vessel to return to the mainland.
“The crew opened the hatch themselves, exited the vessel and climbed aboard a speedboat,” Rear Admiral Vladimir Pepelyayev, deputy head of the naval general staff, told reporters. “Preliminary indications are that their condition is satisfactory.”
“I can only thank our English colleagues for their joint wok and the help they gave in order to complete this operation within the time we had available—that is, before the oxygen reserves ran out,” he said.
The sub surfaced at around 4.26pm local time (1.26am GMT), about three days after becoming stranded in 190m of water off the Pacific Coast on Thursday.
It was carrying six sailors and a representative of the company that manufactured it.
Earlier, a British remote-controlled Super Scorpio cut away the cables that had snarled the 13,2m mini-submarine in Beryozovaya Bay, about 15km off the east coast of the Kamchatka peninsula.
The British vehicle was sent after the navy appealed for international help—a sharp contrast to the sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk in August 2000, when authorities held off asking for outside assistance for days.
The United States also dispatched a crew and three underwater vehicles to Kamchatka at Russia’s request, but they were not deployed at the accident site.
In an echo of the Kursk sinking, President Vladimir Putin had made no public comment by Sunday on the mini-sub drama. Putin remained on vacation as the Kursk disaster unfolded, raising criticism that he appeared either callous or ineffectual.
Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov travelled to Kamchatka on Saturday.
Officials said the mini-submarine was participating in a combat training exercise and got snarled on an underwater antenna assembly that is part of a coastal monitoring system. The system was anchored with a weight of about 60 metric tonnes, according to news reports.
Russia’s cash-strapped navy apparently lacks rescue vehicles capable of operating at the depth where the sub was stranded, and officials say it was too deep for divers to reach or the crew to swim out on their own. An earlier attempt to drag the vessel to shallower waters failed when cables detached after pulling it about 60m.
The new crisis indicated that promises by Putin to improve the navy’s equipment apparently have had little effect. He was sharply criticised for his slow response to the Kursk crisis and reluctance to accept foreign assistance. - Sapa-AP
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