The effort to salvage Russia's Kursk nuclear submarine has resumed after bad weather forced divers to suspend work for the third time. Russia's deadline for lifting the vessel from the bottom of the Barents Sea remains the middle of next month, before the Arctic winter closes in.
Heavy winds and waves three meters high halted work on the Kursk for more than 24 hours. Divers are drilling holes in the main body of the submarine, where cables will be connected and attached to two giant pontoons. The plan is to lift the vessel using hydraulic winches on the pontoons. The sub will then be towed into port with its grim cargo of bodies, missiles, and two nuclear reactors.
An operation to retrieve bodies from the rear section of the submarine shortly after it was destroyed by a series of explosions one year ago could not be completed because of bad weather. Twenty-three men who initially survived the explosions are believed to have gathered there, but only 12 bodies were retrieved before the arctic winter closed in.
The complex salvage operation now under way requires the submarine to be sliced in two before it is lifted, leaving the bow section where the explosions took place on the seabed about 100 meters down. The Russian navy says this section may be retrieved later. Naval experts say that without examining the bow it would never be known how Russia's giant nuclear-powered submarine met its end.
The Kursk sank last August with the loss of all 118 men aboard. It was Russia's worst peacetime naval catastrophe.
President Vladimir Putin promised grieving relatives that the main part of the stricken submarine will be recovered this year. Officials say that despite the delays caused by this week's bad weather the completion date of September 20 still holds.