Severe damage to the Kursk nuclear submarine has thwarted efforts to remove its last six cruise missiles, so investigators must cut them out together with their silos, the Russian navy chief said today.
Experts this weekend extracted two more Granit missiles from the carcass of the Kursk, bringing the total removed to 16, navy chief Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov told the Interfax news agency as saying.
The submarine was lifted from the Barents Sea floor and brought to dry dock last month more than a year after it sank during exercises, killing all 118 men aboard.
The first missiles were removed normally and quickly last week.
But the hull around the remaining six missiles - three on each side, those closest to the mangled bow is too damaged to remove them safely, so they will be cut out with their silos after the Kursk is moved to a plant where it will be dismantled, Kuroyedov was quoted as saying.
He did not say when that would be.
Navy officials had earlier said that might be an option if they could not lift out the missiles normally by crane.
Meanwhile, investigators pulled out one more body from the Kursk overnight, for a total of 56 removed since the Kursk was raised, Northern Fleet chief Vyacheslav Popov was quoted by Interfax and ITAR-Tass as saying.
Twelve bodies were removed by divers during an operation last year.
Funeral services were being held around the country for the sailors whose bodies were recovered, in a grim repeat performance of memorial services in the weeks following the accident.
Investigators are studying the wreck to determine what caused the accident.
Two explosions rocked the submarine August 12, 2000 and it sank to the sea floor. Officials say the first explosion in the Kursk’s bow was caused by a practice torpedo.
Russia’s top prosecutor said yesterday that the first blast detonated ammunition stored in the fore of the Kursk, causing the second, much larger explosion that doomed the submarine.