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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Kursk bow sawn off
Graphic showing robotic cutting gear
The sawn-off bow section will remain on the sea bed
The bow of the Russian nuclear submarine, the Kursk, has been sawn off, allowing an attempt to lift it from the sea bed to be scheduled for Tuesday 25 September.

Bad weather and problems with the huge robotic saw used to cut through submarine's hull had led to fears that the lifting would have to be postponed until next year.

Map of the region
The submarine sank in the Barents Sea on 12 August 2000, after two massive on-board explosions, resulting in the death of all 118 crew.

President Vladimir Putin vowed to raise the submarine this year in order to give the sailors a proper burial.

Russian authorities also want to recover the nuclear reactors, and hope to discover the cause of the disaster by examining the wreck.

A spokesman for the Dutch contractors leading the salvage operation, Lars Walder, said the most difficult task remaining would be to loosen the submarine from the sea bed by dragging a steel wire underneath it.

Schedule
19 September: lifting barge due on site
25 September: lifting
28 September: Kursk arrives in dock
A giant barge which will tow the Kursk to a floating dock once it has been raised is already in the Norwegian port of Kirkenes, and is due on site on 19 September.

Under the new schedule the Kursk should arrive at the dock in Roslyakovo on Russia's Kola peninsula by 28 September.

But under the original plan, announced at the start of the operation, the lifting operation was due to have taken place around 15 September.

Divers will now "seal" the front end of the wreck with a thick metal sheet to prevent more water entering during the lifting, and destabilising the operation.

Although weather conditions on Thursday were reported to be good, the risk of bad weather remains.

Inside the Kursk - a picture from 1994
Important clues may remain in the bow section
Russian meteorologists say the probability of good weather is diminishing and that cyclones are expected in the second half of the month.

Experts say that attempts to determine the cause of the disaster will be hampered by the fact that the most crucial evidence is likely to be in the 25-metre bow section that will remain for now on the sea bed.

This section, which contains the torpedo bay, is where the explosions occurred.

Russian authorities plan to raise it to the surface at a later date.

The Russian navy initially blamed the disaster on a collision with a Western vessel.

A subsequent investigation suggested the cause was most likely to have been an accident in the torpedo bay, but left open the possibility that a collision had been contributing factor.

See also:

05 Sep 01 | Europe
Problems mount for Kursk salvage
12 Aug 01 | Europe
Spectre of Kursk haunts Putin
07 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
New theory for Kursk sinking
28 Aug 01 | Europe
Race against time to raise Kursk
21 Aug 00 | Europe
Media struggles for Kursk truth
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