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Official: No More <i>Kursk</i> Bodies Expected - 2001-11-18

Russian Navy officials say work continues on the wreck of the Kursk nuclear submarine, in dry dock in northern Russia. But they says they do not expect many more surprises, despite continuing doubts about what caused the sub to sink in the Arctic 15 months ago with the loss of 118 lives.

Several top Navy officials held what they called their "last" press conference in the northern port city of Murmansk.

They say salvage crews will continue clearing away debris from inside the giant hulk of the submarine.

But they do not expect to find the remains of any more crewmembers. More than 50 bodies were found in the Kursk since it was raised from the ocean floor last month.

Eleven of those sailors were buried Saturday in an emotional funeral in St. Petersburg in the latest of many funerals held across Russia recently.

Meanwhile, investigators are continuing to seek clues as to what caused two onboard explosions that sank the Kursk. They say they have found a "black box" recording device, which recorded underwater sounds and may help establish whether other underwater objects were in the area.

Some Navy officers maintain that the Kursk collided with another submarine, although the chief investigator says there is no direct evidence of this. Investigators say there is some "indirect evidence," such as dents in the sub's outer hull and unexplained oil spots near the site of the disaster.

But many independent experts dismiss such circumstantial evidence, saying the most likely cause was the misfiring of a faulty torpedo.

The Russian Navy uses highly flammable hydrogen peroxide gas in its torpedoes. The gas was discontinued in most western navies decades ago because it was considered too dangerous.

More clues may be found next summer when the Navy plans to raise fragments of the Kursk's front section, which contained the torpedo bay. Divers cut off that section for safety reasons before the main part of the sub was raised in the recent salvage operation.