It was the pride of the Russian Navy. One of the largest nuclear submarines, with its 155 meters in length and four floors in height. An indestructible war machine, capable of resisting an attack. But on August 12, 2000, during a training, the ‘Kursk’ sank like a huge stone in the Barents Sea and took to its tomb a hundred meters deep the lives of its 118 crew members and the country’s military reputation.
The ‘K-141 Kursk’ was named in 1994 in honour of the western city in which in 1943 the greatest tank battle in history and a legendary Soviet victory against Germany took place. But the end of the Oscar-II class submarine had little to glorify. The collapse of the USSR resulted in a hack to military funds and the abandonment of an increasingly rusty fleet. There were human failures: one of the 18 torpedoes of the ship suffered a blow during the loading operation on the dock, but the rush to comply with the program of the naval exercise prevented its replacement. At 11.28 in the morning, a leak of the propellant gas in the damaged projectile caused a small explosion that could have been contained if the hatch of the room had not been opened, according to the subsequent investigation.
Two minutes later, a second explosion, perceived from the seismographs of Alaska, opened a hole in the hull and flooded two other compartments, drowning its occupants. Another mistake: in an espionage mission to the US Sixth Fleet, the previous year, the emergency buoy that served to inform of his position in case of an accident had been deactivated. Apparently, nobody remembered to reactivate it.
The Navy knew of the accident immediately but did nothing for hours. Vladimir Putin, then a fledgling president, did not even interrupt his vacation in Sochi. The Kremlin tried to hide the tragedy with smoke screens: there was the talk of an old mine, a collision with another ship, a NATO attack and friendly fire. When the rage of family members overflowed, the government undertook the search, but until the last hour, it rejected international aid: military secrecy was a priority.
The operation took place two weeks after the disaster and the divers found that all the sailors were dead. In October 2001, a Dutch company refloated the wreck and 115 bodies. Then a terrible truth came to light: after the explosions, 23 survivors locked themselves in the last compartment still intact, the ninth, and for days hit the walls to help the search teams to locate them. At least three left notes before dying slowly, suffocated by the lack of oxygen. The official investigation is classified until 2030.
Source: El Correo