Rabu, 02 September 2020

Russia's 'slow-motion Chernobyl' at sea - BBC News

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Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, however, the military went into a decline that was revealed to the world when the top-of-the-line attack submarine Kursk sank with 118 crew on board in August 2000. By this time, Lappa was in charge of the K-159, which had been rusting since 1989 at a pier in the isolated navy town of Gremikha, nicknamed the “island of flying dogs” for its strong winds. On the morning of 29 August 2003, the long-delayed order came to tow the decrepit K-159, which had been attached to four 11-tonne pontoons with cables to keep it afloat during the operation, to a base near Murmansk for dismantling, despite a forecast of windy weather.

With the reactors off, Lappa and his skeleton crew of nine engineers operated the boat by flashlight. As the submarine was towed near Kildin Island at half past midnight, the cables to the bow pontoons broke in heavy seas, and a half-hour later water was discovered trickling into the eighth compartment. But as headquarters struggled with the decision to launch an expensive rescue helicopter, the crew kept trying to keep the submarine afloat. At 02:45am Mikhail Gurov sent one last radio transmission: “We’re flooding, do something!” By the time rescue boats from the tug arrived, the K-159 was on the bottom near Kildin Island. Of the three sailors who made it out, the only survivor was senior lieutenant Maxim Tsibulsky, whose leather jacket had filled with air and kept him afloat.

Yet another nuclear submarine had sunk during the “cursed” month of August, Russian newspapers wrote, but the incident caused little furore compared to the Kursk. The navy promised relatives it would raise the K-159 the next year, then repeatedly delayed the project. 

Even after 17 years of scavenging and corrosion, at least the bones of the crew likely remain in the submarine, according to Lynne Bell, a forensic anthropologist at Simon Fraser University. But the families have long since lost hope of recovering them.

“For all the relatives it would bring some relief if their fathers and husbands were buried, not just lying on the bottom in a steel hulk,” Gurov’s son Dmitry says. “It’s just that no one believes this will happen.”

The Link Lonk


September 02, 2020 at 06:23AM
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Russia's 'slow-motion Chernobyl' at sea - BBC News

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