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<i>Kursk</i> to be Lifted Soon - 2001-10-07

Divers have almost finished attaching cables to the wreck of the Russian submarine Kursk, at the bottom of the Barents Sea. Russian officials say the operation to lift the Kursk to the surface will begin soon.

The 26 cables are nearly ready. They are being tested to make sure they are fully secured and able to raise the Kursk to the surface. The cables are connected to hydraulic lifts on a giant barge which is in position directly over the submarine.

The Kursk sank more than a year ago after apparent explosions in the torpedo bay.

For safety reasons, divers sawed off the front section where the torpedos are located. That section will be lifted later.

A consortium led by the Dutch salvage company Mammoet has been in charge of the salvage operation, which began in July.

The difficult and complex work has been halted repeatedly due to bad weather; the lifting was originally scheduled to take place in mid-September. Last week conditions finally improved enough to allow the final phase of the operation to begin.

The plan is to hoist the wreck of the Kursk up from a depth of 108 meters where it came to rest after the accident.

The barge will tow the Kursk to shore, a process which is expected to take several days.

Salvage experts will then recover the remains of the 118 crew members who died in the accident.

Several sophisticated missiles and the ship's two nuclear reactors will also be removed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to raise the Kursk, when he met with grieving family members soon after the disaster.

The total cost of the operation to lift and later salvage the wreck is estimated to be over $100 million.