Russian mini-submarine trapped on sea floor off Kamchatka

A Russian naval mini-submarine with seven sailors aboard was trapped yesterday on the sea floor off the Pacific Coast after becoming caught on a fishing net, navy officials said. The vessel had enough oxygen and electrical power to last 48 hours

How long the oxygen aboard would last was unclear as Navy authorities scrambled to try to figure out how to raise the vessel from a depth of some 190 meters (625 feet).

In televised comments, Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Alexander Kosolapov said there was contact with the sailors, who were not hurt, and that authorities were preparing to send down a similar vessel to assess the situation.

The vessel was trapped after its propeller caught on a fishnet Thursday, navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said.

The vessel was too deep to allow the sailors to swim to the surface on their own, officials said, and conflicting statements from officials indicated there was enough oxygen in the vessel to last between one and five days.

The Interfax news agency quoted Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Viktor Dmitriev as saying the vessel had enough oxygen and electrical power to last 48 hours. The vessels normally have a crew of three.

An official in the regional military prosecutor's office, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the mini-submarine's oxygen could last one more day. But he and other officials said there were also individual breathing equipment systems on board.

Kosolapov said the navy would examine ways to bring the vessel, also called a bathyscaph, to the surface and that nine warships were in the area to aid the rescue operation. Dygalo said there was enough food and water on the vessel to last the sailors five days.

The military prosecutor's office official said the vessel was in Beryozovaya Bay, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Kamchatka's capital, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, while Interfax said it was 75 kilometers (47 miles) from the city.

The same type of vessel, called a Priz, was used in the rescue efforts that followed the Kursk disaster, Interfax reported.

Priz vessels look like small submarines. They are about 13.5 meters (44 feet) long and 5.7 meters (18.7 feet) high and can dive to depths below 500 meters (1,640 feet), AP reports.

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