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Arctic Russian town angry at sub crew deaths

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MURMANSK, Russia, Aug 19 (Reuters) - People in this northern Russian town blamed the authorities for dragging their feet over the Kursk submarine disaster on Saturday after officials said the crew were probably already dead.

Murmansk governor Yuri Yevdokimov said he felt deeply sorry.

"The crew has unfortunately perished, that is a fact. This is painful not only for the relatives but for all the people in the north and for Russia," said Yevdokimov, whose region includes many naval bases, including the home port of the Kursk.

Many people in Murmansk, a port town just down the road from the Northern Fleet's home base of Severomorsk, said they were angry.

"I cannot judge if it was right or wrong but everybody is furious at how slow the rescue operation was carried out," said Lydumila Zaitseva, expressing a widespread feeling in this port town, whose life is intimately linked to the sea.

"We know them and we feel for them, it is a tragedy," said Irina, a shop assistant.

Another man agreed the navy had delayed in sending help to the 118 crew of the Kursk, who have been sitting at the bottom of the Barents Sea since late last Saturday.

"The fact that the sailors were dead from the first was clear but the fact a lot of time was wasted is also clear," said the man, who declined to give his name.

"There is no question about that," he said.

Others hoped for the best.

"There is still hope, isn't there? They have to carry on with the rescue operation anyway," said Yevgeny.

The head of the Northern Fleet general staff told Russian television on Saturday it seemed likely that all 118 crew had died either from drowning as water leaked in or from loss of oxygen.

The officer, Mikhail Motsak, said it was the worst disaster he had come across in his career in the navy.