Recovery teams have pulled the remains of eight seamen out of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk. The submarine was recently raised from the floor of the Barents Sea, where it sank in August of last year.
Recovery teams are continuing their search for bodies on the Kursk, and they say the grim task of identifying the remains has begun. All 118 people on the Kursk were killed after as yet unexplained explosions sent the submarine to the bottom of the Barents Sea in August of last year. Twelve bodies were recovered in underwater operations last November, but recovery efforts were halted when winter weather set in.
Early this month, the bulk of the Kursk was raised in a major international salvage operation costing about $65 million dollars. The Kursk is now being examined in dry dock near the Arctic port of Murmansk.
Investigators have been outfitted with heavy protective suits and oxygen masks to shield them from possible poison gas leaks or radiation. There has been great concern about possible radiation leaks, but Russian officials say no leaks have been found and they say radiation levels around the reactors are normal.
Aside from recovering bodies, investigators will also have to carefully remove the submarine's two nuclear reactors and 22 cruise missiles.
In the end, investigators will try to determine what caused the disaster. It is believed the torpedoes stored in the bow (front) of the submarine exploded, but it is not clear what caused the first torpedo to explode. The Kursk's bow remains on the bottom of the sea and will not be raised until some time next year.
The government came under severe criticism for its slow and clumsy handling of the initial recovery operation last year. President Vladimir Putin was especially criticized for not breaking off his vacation when the accident occurred. Families of the Kursk's crew were particularly angered when notes found by divers showed that 23 men had survived the initial explosion and were trapped in the stern (back) of the submarine. But the men were not able to open a damaged escape hatch and suffocated to death.