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Kursk fast sinking into the mud

By Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW, AUG. 18. As continuing attempts to save the crew of the crippled Russian nuclear submarine, Kursk, have failed, new evidence suggested that the vessel had suffered more devastating damage than thought earlier, which could have been caused by a collision with another vessel.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Ilya Klebanov, who heads a Government commission that reviewed the rescue effort on Thursday, said experts tended to blame the accident on a collision with another vessel. ``There was a collision between the nuclear submarine and some other object with a large tonnage,'' Interfax quoted Mr. Klebanov as saying. He said the submarine suffered another strong blow when it hit the seabed.

He said there was a ``terrifying hole'' on the starboard side of the submarine. ``A rather large part of the crew was in the part of the boat that was hit by the catastrophe that developed at lightning speed,'' Mr. Klebanov told reporters in Murmansk, home of the Russian Northern Fleet. He confirmed

that there had been no tapping heard from inside the submarine ``for quote a long time''.

Admiral Eduard Baltin, former commander of a nuclear submarine division, told Russian television that the kind of damage detected on the hull of the Kursk could have been caused by a head-on collision with another submarine. There was information that one of two U.S. submarines that spied on the Russian naval exercises had made an emergency call to a Norwegian port shortly after the accident, he said.

Russian television said a film taken by a deep-water craft showed the Kursk had suffered severe damage when it went down with 118 personnel aboard six days ago during major naval exercises in the Barents Sea. A correspondent for the state-owned RTR channel, the only mediaperson allowed to report from the

area of the accident, said the two front sections of the submarine were clearly destroyed and water must have flooded the command centre in a flash, which would have made it ``impossible to avoid casualties''.

Meanwhile, attempts to dock a rescue capsule with the stricken submarine are continuing round the clock. A rescuer told RTR television that on several attempts the rescue craft had managed to latch onto an escape hatch of the Kursk submarine, but failed to establish an air-tight connection because the area around the hatch was probably damaged. Each time the rescue capsule had to return to the surface after its batteries ran out of power trying to pump out the water.

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