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Breaking News

Russian Submarine Accident: Kursk Escape Hatch Badly Damaged; Setback for Rescue Effort

Aired August 18, 2000 - 7:01 a.m. ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We have some new breaking news coming from the scene of that Russian nuclear sub accident. Just when you didn't think a bad situation could get any worse, it just did.

CNN's Mike Hanna is monitoring this story for us from Moscow. We go to him now for an update -- Mike.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Leon, indications of a major setback in attempts to rescue the crewmen aboard the submarine Kursk over 300 feet below the surface of the ocean. According to live Russian television reports, after days of effort, a docking was made with one of the Russian submersibles and the submarine. However, after the docking had been made it was discovered that the escape hatch was badly damaged.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Early in the morning, one of the capsules managed to connect to the escape hatch of the submarine, but the platform of the escape hatch was deformed by some powerful blow, and when they began pumping out water, the water wouldn't drain from there. It kept re-filling. That's why the rescue capsule had to surface after using up all of its battery power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNA: Well, this is, indeed, a major setback as there are only two escape hatches reportedly on the submarine. The Russians earlier said that video footage revealed that the escape hatch at the front of the vessel had been badly damaged beyond repair in the accident, whatever caused the accident that caused the submarine to go down.

Well, a British rescue craft is also on its way to the scene, the LR5 submersible, a mini submarine. However, the technique to be used by this vehicle or vessel as well is to attach itself to one of the escape hatches. The news now, apparently, that with both escape hatches damaged, it appears that this particular option may be ruled out, which is bad news for the crew survivors aboard, if there are indeed survivors, and, of course, for all their families who were hoping that they were still alive, Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Mike, does that mean that the Russian officials will change now the focus of this mission? Will it no longer become a rescue mission?

HANNA: Well, nothing has been said to this particular effect. The official line is still that all efforts will continue, that hope will not be abandoned at any point. But, clearly, it does appear, with the major setbacks that are being experienced, that at some stage what was a rescue operation is going to turn into a deeply tragic salvage mission, Leon.

HARRIS: All right, thanks.

Mike Hanna reporting with breaking news out of Moscow.

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