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Last Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
UK 'elation' at submarine rescue
British submarine rescue team
The team sliced though nets to release the sub
The British navy commander who headed the team which rescued a stricken Russian submarine has spoken of his "elation" at its crew's survival.

Everyone involved in the rescue was still very emotional, Commander Ian Riches told BBC Radio 4's Today show.

He said there had been an "awful wait" while the sub came up to the surface.

"It is so very difficult to describe. The elation was just out of this world," he said. The British team is hoping to meet the seven rescued crew.

'Emotional rollercoaster'

Describing the moment the mini-sub Priz emerged after three days trapped on the seabed of the Pacific Ocean, Cdr Riches said: "There was just shouting, cheering.

"I can assure you that grown men cried and even now I go through this emotional rollercoaster, the memory of seeing her arise on the surface."

The British team used a remote-controlled mini-sub to cut free the vessel after it dropped to 190m (620ft) off the Kamchatka peninsula, prompting several failed rescue attempts.

Commander Ian Riches
We are keen to meet them and shake their hands
Commander Ian Riches

The British Scorpio craft, an unmanned underwater robot, sliced through the nets which were entangling the submarine.

The Russian submarine's crew had faced dwindling oxygen supplies and low temperatures and had reportedly coped by wearing thermal suits and keeping still.

Cdr Riches said some Russians wanted to know why their own navy had not been able to carry out the rescue themselves.

"I know they have their own ROVs. I also know they did try and they suffered some fairly major failures in these ROVs. That is for them to investigate," he said.

Length: 2.75m
Width: 1.8m
Height: 1.8m
Max depth: 925m
Tools: Cable cutter, lifting arms, pumps
Cameras: Three

"From our aspect, we have had nothing but praise heaped on us and I think the greatest thing was the ability to work so closely and openly with the Russians.

"They were really very keen to give us as much information as possible and to ensure these guys were freed."

Cdr Riches said the Russians had learned valuable lessons from the sinking of the submarine Kursk five years ago, when the authorities were criticised for not asking for international help soon enough after all 118 crew on board died.

He said the Russians were now more willing to ask for expertise.

The British rescuers hoped to meet up with the seven Russians whose lives they had saved.

Cdr Riches said: "We are keen to meet them and shake their hands."

The AS-28 'Priz' minisub can operate at depths of 1,000m, but 190m is too deep to allow the crew to attempt escape

Watch underwater footage of the trapped submarine

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