Disabled sub under tow, heading for Scotland

Two military vessels have begun towing the HMCS Chicoutimi Thursday afternoon.

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.

Rescuers are speeding to get the remaining crew of 54 back on land before more bad weather hits on the weekend. Officials wouldn't say when they expected the vessel to reach port.

Commodore Tyrone Pile, commander of Canadian Fleet Atlantic, said the crew has restored some auxiliary power to the rudder, which will greatly help the towing operation.

Pile said he also hopes some crew members can be taken on board two nearby British frigates to get hot food and showers.

The submarine, which has been drifting off the northwest coast of Ireland, lost power after a fire broke out Tuesday.

Lieut. Chris Saunders, a 32-year-old combat systems engineer from Saint John, N.B., died from smoke inhalation.

Two other sailors are in the hospital. Master Seaman Archibald MacMaster, 41, is in serious but stable condition. Petty Officer 2nd Class Denis Lafleur, also 41, is in stable condition.

Six other sailors are suffering from smoke inhalation but did not need to be taken off the sub.

HMCS St. John's departed from St. John's late Wednesday night and is en route to provide assistance.

Graham defends safety of subs

Meanwhile, Canada's defence minister said Ottawa has no plans to halt operations of the submarines leased from Britain, despite the death of the officer on HMCS Chicoutimi.

Acknowledging there have been problems with the subs, Defence Minister Bill Graham said the Canadian navy will conduct a review of the fire aboard the Chicoutimi.

A series of delays, cost overruns and technical mishaps – including leaks on most of the subs – have raised questions about whether Canada got a good deal from Britain's Royal Navy.

But Graham said naval officers are confident the three other boats in the $750-million leasing deal will continue to operate.

"There have been problems, but [Maritime Naval staff] believe they're capable of working through those problems. And I have full confidence both in the Maritime staff and in our personnel on those ships to manage those ships," he said.