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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October, 2004, 23:30 GMT 00:30 UK
Submarine rescue gets under way
Rescue effort.  Courtesy of Royal Navy
Three men were airlifted to hospital. Picture courtesy of Royal Navy
A rescue operation to retrieve a Canadian submarine adrift off Ireland's west coast is under way.

The salvage vessel Anglian Prince began towing HMCS Chicoutimi, which has more than 50 Canadian sailors on board, after waiting for improved weather.

A fire on Tuesday cut the vessel's power and gales hampered the rescue.

Three seriously injured men were winched to safety but one died and one of the others is "stable but critical" in hospital with smoke inhalation.

The Ministry of Defence said the motorised Anglian Prince was towing the Chicoutimi through the Atlantic at a speed of about three knots towards the Clyde area.

It is expected to reach its destination - which will be decided by the Canadian authorities on Friday - on Sunday.

Map graphic
Formerly HMS Upholder, the sub was renamed after a Quebec city
Type: Long-range diesel-electric patrol submarine
Displacement: 2,185 tons (surf.), 2,400 tons (sub.)
Length: 70.26 metres
Speed: 12 kts (surf.), 20 kts (sub.)
Patrol Endurance: approx 8 weeks
Complement: 48 crew, 5 trainees
Diving Depth: 200 metres

Master Seaman Archibald MacMaster was in intensive care at Sligo General Hospital in the Irish Republic.

He suffered extensive lung damage and his condition was described as "critical, but stable".

His colleague, Petty Officer Denis Lafleur, was in a "stable" condition.

Lt Chris Saunders, 32, who was married with two children, died before he got to the hospital at Sligo, in the Irish Republic.

Commodore Tyrone Pile, of the Canadian Navy, said both of the injured men were exhausted and traumatised - especially by the loss of their shipmate.

He added that Mr Saunders' wife was being given "every form of assistance" to help her cope with the news that her husband had died.

A Canadian Navy spokesman told a press conference in Nova Scotia that spirits on board were good although there was "significant sorrow" over the loss of a ship mate.

Meanwhile, Canada's opposition parties have accused the government there of disregarding defence and buying "inferior submarines" on the cheap.

MPs have called for urgent inquiries into the purchase of UK submarines and a possible claim against Britain has been suggested.

Late arrival

HMCS Chicoutimi was on its way to Nova Scotia from the Royal Navy base at Faslane on the Clyde, after being sold to the Canadians by the Royal Navy, when the fire began.

At first it was thought the injuries and damage to the submarine were not serious - the first rescue vessel arrived nearly 24 hours later, hampered by "treacherous" weather.

There are as yet no plans to airlift the remaining 54 crew members from the submarine, where the fire has damaged the switchboard and electrical distribution system.

But efforts could be made to let them spend time on rescue vessels so they can get a hot shower, food and recuperate.

HMCS Chicoutimi drifting. Courtesy of RAF
The Royal Navy sold the submarine to the Canadians
Two British tugs joined three Royal Navy vessels on Thursday.

Irish and American ships also joined the rescue effort, which now involves 400 people, and a Canadian patrol frigate is on its way to provide logistic and moral support.

Fuel and medical supplies had already reached the submarine.

HMCS Chicoutimi is one of four submarines the Canadians bought from the Royal Navy - all of which are said to have had technical difficulties.

Captain Steve Upright, from the Faslane base, told the BBC the submarine had been examined and declared fit before being handed over.

But Commodore Pile said it was too early to say what had caused the fire and a full investigation would be carried out.

It is not yet known which Scottish base HMCS Chicoutimi will be towed to.

See pictures of crewmen being airlifted off the sub

Canada's PM faces double crisis
07 Oct 04  |  Americas

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