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Russian Submarine Accident: Rescue Attempt Under Way; Pentagon Officials Offer Assistance, Hope for BestAired August 15, 2000 - 9:00 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: First, attempts to rescue those Russian submariners still trapped under water there in northern Russia. Officials say they have started a fresh attempt today to try and rescue more than 100 crew members still stranded at the bottom of the sea. It's a race against time at this point.
Here's CNN's Mike Hanna tracking the very latest from Moscow. He joins us live with more -- Mike.
MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, the latest that we hear is that the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, says that the rescue operation will be under way with full force in between six to eight hours around about midnight local time. He says that a submersible will be used to attempt to evacuate the crewmen from the stricken submarine, which is lying at some 108 meters under water. He says that the submersible will ferry -- attempt to ferry the crew members back to the surface ship.
Earlier, the Interfax News Agency quoted the Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev as saying that the rescue operation was now under way. It does appear that the preliminary attempts are being made to get the submersible down to the stricken vessel on the surface -- on the floor of the ocean.
We do understand as well that weather conditions have improved in recent hours. There had been a strong northwestern gale blowing across the Barents Sea. This has diminished in intensity, allowing the rescue operation to get under way.
Admiral Kuroyedov says, too, that Russia has everything it needs to complete a successful rescue. However, he says the problem remains the weather. While the weather conditions are acceptable, the rescue operation can go ahead. But should the weather deteriorate, then there are going to be problems for the rescue operation and, of course, for the 116 crew members who are aboard the stricken vessel.
Mike Hanna, CNN, reporting live from Moscow.
HEMMER: All right, Mike, thank you.
Back in this country, certainly the U.S. is watching closely the situation with that stranded Russian sub had has offered technical assistance to the Russians. More now from the Pentagon and CNN's David Ensor watching this this morning.
David, what are they saying today?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, as you probably know, there are more than a few submariners here at the Pentagon, people experienced with the same kind of technologies, and they're really rooting for the Russian rescuers and hoping that all goes well and watching the thing very closely indeed.
There is, besides the lives of the 116 the Russians are now saying are down there, there's another concern here, too, however, and that is what caused this accident, and could there be any side effects from it? The Russians are now saying there was an explosion in the torpedo bays. Those -- the Kursk is equipped to carry -- as well as conventional torpedoes, it can also carry nuclear-tipped torpedoes.
Now, the Russians have said there are no nuclear weapons on board the Kursk. Officials here are somewhat skeptical about that and they're very much hoping that there has not been a conventional torpedo accident, for example, that might have caused nuclear leakage. No indications that that's the case at this point. And we understand that the Norwegian Navy is in the area. They're very good at testing for nuclear contamination in the water and they have found none thus far.
So the hope is here that, whatever accident caused this disaster, there will not be any nuclear implications from it. The belief is that there will be none, but that's still something they want to try and resolve here, in addition to very much rooting for the rescue effort -- Bill.
HEMMER: All right, David. David Ensor from the Pentagon, we will check back in there throughout the morning.
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