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Breaking News

Survival of Russian Submarine Crew Appears Unlikely

Aired August 16, 2000 - 4:07 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: Hello, I am Natalie Allen at CNN Center Atlanta.

CNN has learned U.S. intelligence thinks the crew of a Russian sub may not have survived the accident that led to its sinking in the Barents Sea. U.S. analysts say they have no information to support Russian claims that the crew was heard tapping messages on the submarine's hull.

To the Pentagon now and CNN's Carl Rochelle, who is reporting on this development -- Carl.

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, that's what the intelligence analysts are telling CNN, that there is no evidence to support the tapping even on the early stages of the accident -- right after this happened -- no evidence to support any tapping on the hull or any communications at all from inside of the hull.

Officials noted that that submarine is double-hulled. And one of the reasons it is double-hulled is to isolate that sound inside the submarine from the outside. That would make it more difficult. The official Russian claims regarding the state of the crew appear to be overly optimistic, and suggested that it appears to many analysts that the crew may have not survived the initial stages of the accident. Now, the U.S. had two submarines and a surveillance ship monitoring the Russian military exercise that was going on.

They detected on Saturday two distinct explosions, the second larger than the first. The officials said U.S. intelligence estimates do believe that people could have survived the initial explosion and could be inside awaiting rescue, that there would be, if the compartment remained intact, enough oxygen to last to last them at least through Friday. But they also say there is no significant evidence that would leave them to believe that the crew may still be alive and awaiting rescue -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Carl Rochelle at the Pentagon.

All the while, rescue efforts continue. A British mini-sub is in Norway heading to the site where the Russian sub sank. President Clinton has called Vladimir Putin and offered any U.S. help the Russian president wants.

And CNN's Mike Hanna is watching things for us from Moscow -- Mike.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, there has been no official reaction to the reports emanating from the Pentagon. It is midnight here in Moscow. However, early on in the day, the deputy prime minister, Ilya Klebanov, who's heading the government inquiry into the accident, did say that there were no signs of life within the boat, implying that there had been signs of life before.

Now throughout the period since this accident took place, the Navy and political sources have been describing the communication in broad terms, using phrases like "hydro-acoustic," saying on several occasions that a Morse Code signal had been tapped out on the hull of the boat. But perhaps significantly, in the light of what the Pentagon is reporting, that a Naval spokesman said earlier on this day, that the rescue efforts are being hampered as well by the fact that there is no clarity as to the conditions inside the submarine. This would imply that if communications had been taking place between the crew members in the boat and the rescuers outside that there would have been some information about what the conditions were.

So clearly, there are discrepancies within the Russian accounts of what is happening inside of the boat, or rather than the degree of communication that they had been exercising with the inhabitants of that boat.

While there is rescue attempts that are still continuing throughout the Navy, according to the Navy, but they will be joined by a British rescue team, and in particular, a British submersible rescue vehicle, the LR-5 -- this particular vessel apparently able to operate in the conditions of which the Kursk is lying, at an altitude of more, an inclination at more than 60 degrees, reports say. That's -- this submersible will be in place by the weekend, possibly earlier Saturday, or maybe even Sunday, but they say it's the same weather conditions that the Russians say have hampered their attempts at rescue.

Mike Hanna, CNN, reporting live from Moscow.

ALLEN: Dramatic developments in this story. We'll continue to bring you updates as we get them.

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