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Disabled sub under tow,


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OTTAWA - HMCS Chicoutimi was under tow Thursday, with rescuers racing to get the disabled sub and its crew to safety before the onset of more bad weather.

Skies cleared enough for a Royal Navy tug to hook the submarine with a cable and begin dragging it toward the British military base it had left earlier this week.

Six-metre seas and 60-kilometre winds have hampered rescue efforts since the boat lost power after a fire on Tuesday.

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Sub rescuers battle strong tides

The stricken Canadian submarine HMCS Chicoutimi is being towed back to the Scottish coast, three days after a fire knocked out its power.

The salvage vessel Anglian Prince began towing the sub, which was adrift 140km off the coast of Ireland, on Thursday night and is due back early next week.

But strong tides mean it could be three days before the vessel reaches shore.

One crew member died from injuries sustained from the fire and another is critically ill.

Lieutenant Chris Saunders was the only fatality of the blaze.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin delayed a visit to Russia, France and Hungary by 48 hours in order to attend the return home of the crew member's remains.

Master Seaman Archibald MacMaster is critically ill in Sligo General Hospital in the Irish Republic and Petty Officer Denis Lafleur is said to be in a stable condition.

The vessel is heading towards the Clyde area at a speed of three knots but its final destination has not been confirmed.

Another possible destination is Barrow-in-Furness, in Cumbria, where the submarine was built in 1983.

HMCS Chicoutimi, once the property of the Royal Navy, was handed over at Faslane on Saturday.

But on Tuesday, as it headed back to Nova Scotia, a fire broke out on board, seriously injuring three crewmen.

Another 54 crew members are still on the submarine, which is said to have become more stable since towing began.

Lieutenant Commander Peter Twomey, of the LE Aoife which is on standby to help the operation, said they were making steady, but slow progress.

He said: "There are strong tides on the north coast, so it's [likely to take] something like two and a half or three days."

A Canadian patrol frigate, HMCS St John's, is on its way and is expected to arrive on Sunday to provide logistic and moral support for the crew.

Royal Navy frigates HMS Montrose and HMS Marlborough and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's Wave Knight and Argus vessels are at the scene, along with two tugs - the Anglian Prince and the Carolyn Chouest.

The fire damaged the submarine's electrical distribution system and switchboard - although steering has been restored.

Commander Andy Webb of HMS Montrose said the final port had yet to be decided but they were headed towards the Clyde area.

"At the moment our aim is to take the submarine into sheltered waters," he told the BBC.

"The crew are tired, but in good spirits. We managed to get some hot food and hot drinks across to them.

"They have been without cooking facilities for the last couple of days and living off sandwiches but they are all fine."

The fire has prompted opposition parties to accuse the Canadian government of buying "inferior submarines" on the cheap.

The leader of the official opposition has demanded "a full inquiry" into the affair.

All four former Royal Navy vessels are said to have had technical difficulties.

HMCS Chicoutimi was decommissioned in the early 1990s. It was then refitted by Bae Systems before being re-commissioned for service in the Canadian Navy.

On Thursday Commodore Tyrone Pile, of the Canadian Navy, said it was too early to say what had caused the fire and a full investigation would take place.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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Submarine hitches faster ride

OTTAWA - A U.S. warship has replaced a British tug to tow the HMCS Chicoutimi, in a move that could triple the disabled submarine's speed and get it to port by Sunday evening.

The new vessel could pull the sub at speeds of up to 17 kilometres an hour, Rear-Admiral Dan McNeil told a news conference in Halifax Saturday morning.

The submarine, which lost power off the coast of Ireland after a fire broke out Tuesday, could reach Faslane, Scotland, by early as Sunday evening if good weather holds, said McNeil, commander of Maritime Force Atlantic.

By late Saturday morning, the vessel was about 275 kilometres off the coast of Scotland, he said.

Doctors were conducting an autopsy Saturday on Lieut. Chris Saunders, 32, who died of smoke inhalation after the fire.

Two other sailors who have been in an Irish hospital are improving, officials said Saturday. Master Seaman Archibald MacMaster, 41, is in serious but stable condition, while Petty Officer 2nd Class Denis Lafleur, also 41, is expected to leave the hospital Sunday.

Canadian naval officers have started arriving in Scotland to hold a formal board of inquiry, similar to a coroners inquest. They will try to determine why Saunders died and what caused the major fire that forced the sub to shut down its engines.

Six-metre seas and 60-kilometre winds have hampered rescue efforts since the boat lost power. Skies cleared enough for a tug to hook the stranded submarine with cables Thursday.

By Friday afternoon, 21 of the Chicoutimi's crew had been transferred to the British navy frigate Montrose, which is staying by the side of the submarine.

Tyrone Pile fields questions at a news conference regarding HMCS Chicoutimi, in Halifax on Thursday. (CP photo)

A crewman from Chicoutimi fell into the ocean shortly after the tow began early Thursday night. He was quickly retrieved by a rescue diver and is reportedly in good health.

Saunders' body is to be repatriated to Halifax on Sunday and a military funeral will be held there on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Paul Martin postponed his first major foreign tour to be in Halifax on Sunday. He was to leave Friday for an eight-day visit to Russia, Hungary and France.



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