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British LR-5 Makes Way to Barents Sea for Rescue MissionAired August 16, 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: After days of turning aside offers of assistance, Russia has asked for help in the increasingly desperate battle to save the crew of a disabled submarine. Britain flew a special rescue submarine to Norway, where it can be put on a boat for the rest of the trip to the Barents Sea.
CNN's Mike Hanna reports that up to this point, rescue efforts have been futile.
MIKE HANNA, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Throughout the day, the weather deteriorates, but attempts to save the crew of the submarine Kursk continue without success; the efforts of the rescue teams frustrated by the increasingly strong currents and minimal visibility on the ocean floor. Revealing perhaps a degree of desperation, naval engineers were considering whether it was possible to raise the tail of the submarine to the surface, allowing officers and crew to escape through the stern of the massive vessel.
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): The situation is difficult. I'd say the situation is critical, but we can only say that everything that can be done to save the ship and its crew is being done.
HANNA: Russian options apparently exhausted, this British vessel is now about to be deployed. The LR-5 submersible rescue craft with a British team is on its way to the Barents Sea; the offer of outside help finally being accepted.
This as the chief of the Russian navy revises his estimate of how long the crew members of the Kursk have before their oxygen runs out. Earlier he'd said oxygen would be exhausted by Friday, but now is quoted as saying there could be enough to last another week. Asked to explain the discrepancy, a naval spokesman has told CNN he does not question admirals.
HANNA: Uncertainty, too, about the condition of the crew members, earlier, a government minister said there were no signs of life aboard the boat. Asked to comment, a military spokesman pointed out that communication can only be established when the rescue vessel comes in direct contact with the hull of the submarine. Because of the adverse weather conditions, this has not been possible for most of the day.
In another development, it's been confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin has held a conversation with U.S. President Bill Clinton, the contents of the conversation not clear. But Mr. Putin's office has released a statement saying that the Russian president has expressed thanks for the commiserations and the support offered by Mr. Clinton -- Natalie.
ALLEN: So communication has been limited to, when they did talk with them it was the sailors inside the submarine just, if you call that talking, tapping on the hull of that boat, trying to communicate. No one knows then, Mike, if these attempts are all come too late to save these men?
HANNA: Well, one doesn't, the question of that communication is a bit complex, because from what we are being told by the Russian naval and military sources, is that there has been some kind of spoken communication when the rescue vessels are physically touching the hull of the submarine. Otherwise, when it is not, they have been communicating through tapping on the hull of the ship.
So it's not clear how much communication there has been, but we have heard just heard confirmed, within the last 15 minutes, in fact, that there has been no communication of any kind for much of the day. Now whether this is because the rescue vessels have not been able to get close enough or for some other reason, we do not know. We simply do not know the condition of the crew members aboard the submarine Kursk -- Natalie.
ALLEN: All right, Mike Hanna, thanks so much, Mike, live from Moscow.
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