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Breaking News

Submarine Kursk and Town of Kursk Wait for Rescue

Aired August 15, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The Russian navy is making an attempt today to save those 116 sailors aboard the crippled submarine Kursk. The six to eight hour operation involves dropping a submersible vessel to the site, 350 feet below the surface of the Barents Sea.

CNN's Mike Hanna is in Moscow with the latest on the rescue effort and reaction from family members -- Mike.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, the rescue operation is reportedly now well under way and has been so for the last couple of hours. There are some 15 vessels taking part in this rescue operation. The storm conditions that have plagued the area for the last couple of days have subsided somewhat. It is reported the gale force winds have dropped and allowed this rescue attempt to be carried out at present.

What they are attempting to do is to drop a submersible escape pod down from the rescue ship the Rudinsky to the hull of the submarine. The difficulty is is that the submarine's reported to be at an incline of some 60 degrees. So the rescue pod has to slide across the hull of the submarine to the escape hatch where it will affix itself, then the pressure between the two vessels is equalized and theoretically the crew members are able to emerge into the escape pod and go up to the rescue ships above.

It's a very long and tedious task. We understand that as many as 10 people, including crew members, can be in the pod at any one time. So it is a lengthy procedure and all eyes on the weather, because the weather is a critical factor in what is going on.

But while we are watching and waiting, so too are the friends and families of the 116 crew members aboard.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNA (voice-over): Dmitri Staroseltseva is one of the sailors under the sea. A week ago his family received a letter which said how proud he was to be aboard the submarine Kursk. Now they sit and watch the news and wait.

VALENTINA STAROSELTSEVA, MOTHER OF KURSK CREW MEMBER (through translator): I think this horror is going to pass. And I think he's going to come back, that's what should be. HANNA: A number of the sailors were born in this town called Kursk, the town after which the submarine was named. Among them, Alexander Bershkov (ph), who left the boat a few months to return home.

We were taught the crew doesn't leave the submarine until the very last, he says. We only leave the boat if the situation is hopeless.

In the local school, the teachers remember the young boys whose lives are now in the balance.

I think they're going to live, says this teacher. Not one of us has any thought but that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNA: No indication as to the condition of the crew members inside the submarine. A naval spokesman says there has been communication, but of a limited kind. The crew members have reportedly been beating out Morse messages on the hull of the submarine.

Back to you, Natalie.

ALLEN: Mike, so then no word on whether anyone was killed during the explosion that took place?

HANNA: Absolutely no word as to whether there were any injuries when the accident happened that caused submarine to go down. The navy has said that it does appear to have been a torpedo exploding in the bow of the boat, which one would have expected would have led to some casualties aboard the boat. But because the communication is so limited, there's just no idea among the rescuers or among the public at large as to how extensive the injuries are aboard the boat and as to the general condition of the crew, given their lack of fresh air and their lack of water -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Mike Hanna, live from Moscow.

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