116 Russians trapped in submarineBy Marcus Warren in Moscow, Ben Fenton in Los Angeles and Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent
London Telegraph Tuesday 15 August 2000 A RUSSIAN nuclear submarine with 116 officers and men on board was trapped 350ft under water last night after hitting the floor of the Barents Sea. The head of the navy, Adml Vladimir Kuroyedov, admitted that there was little chance of rescue. He said: "The chances for a positive outcome are not very high." A Royal Navy submarine rescue team was standing by to fly to the Arctic with miniature subs, but the Foreign Office said there had been no response to the offer of help. Northern Fleet command was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying that the submarine was damaged but upright. It said: "The situation is serious but our rescue teams have enough resources to deal with the emergency without turning to others for help." At least one rescue craft, Kolokol, was said to be feeding power and oxygen to the Kursk and links with the captain, Gennady Lyachin, 45, were restored after 24 hours of radio silence. Western defence experts were pessimistic, however. Paul Beaver, of Jane's Defence Weekly said: "If the Russians do not rescue them within 48 hours, I don't think they will survive. It depends on how quickly they react. The problem is they wait for others to tell them what to do and do not take the initiative." The 18,000-ton Kursk, the flagship submarine of the Northern Fleet and one of the world's most modern warships, was not carrying nuclear warheads. Nor was there any evidence of leaks from its reactors, which it shut down. The Russians said that the Kursk had apparently suffered "a big and serious collision".
They suggested that it could have collided with "a foreign submarine" and that the other boat was damaged and in the same area. The Pentagon rejected this version of events and said that the Kursk, which was commissioned in 1995, had been "in collision with the ocean floor" on Sunday.A spokesman said: "There was an exercise going on at the time, but I am afraid I am not able to say how we obtained our information about the collision." Loyal, an American electronic surveillance ship, was monitoring the area, off the Kola peninsula, which is often patrolled by American submarines. The Kursk went down so quickly that the crew had no time to put out distress buoys. The alarm was raised only when it failed to report on time to headquarters at Severomorsk. There were unconfirmed reports that some sailors had been killed or injured in the accident - the worst to hit the Russian navy for more than 10 years. Oscar 2 class submarines such as Kursk, are designed to sink aircraft carriers. They are usually armed with 24 cruise missiles and have emergency capsules for such accidents. But the capsules cannot cope with a crew as large as that said to be aboard the Kursk. Original reports suggested that the trouble began when the Kursk failed to close its torpedo hatches, flooding the tubes. John Pike, of the Federation of American Scientists, an independent group, said: "It sounds as if it suffered a combination of human error and mechanical failure. Russian subs are poorly maintained and rarely go to sea. Most of their units have spent most of the past decade in port." The last major incident involving a Russian submarine was the sinking of the Komsomolets off Norway after a fire in 1989 in which 42 sailors died.
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