18 sailors trapped in sunk Indian submarine feared dead
All 18 sailors trapped in the Indian submarine which exploded Wednesday are feared dead, said Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony.
Just two days after India launched its first indigenous aircraft carrier, the country suffered a major setback after a major fire, triggered by a huge explosion, gutted one of its submarines and partially damaged another at Mumbai naval dockyard in the early hours of Wednesday.
"The explosion took place soon after midnight on board Indian Navy's newly modified submarine, INS Sindhurakshak, docked at the high-security naval dockyard in Mumbai. It was gutted in the fire and INS Sindhuratna, another submarine berthed nearby, also got damaged in the explosion," the sources said.
Though fire fighters doused the flames on board INS Sindhurakshak by 3 a.m. local time, the fate of 18 sailors still feared trapped inside the vessel are unknown, they said.
An Indian Navy statement said that the 16-year-old INS Sindhurakshak has "submerged at her berth with only a portion visible above the surface". It added that "efforts are on to ascertain the safety of the personnel and salvage of the submarine ".
A high level probe has been ordered by the Indian Navy, sources said, adding that sabotage is also not being ruled out as the explosion took place a day before India's Independence Day. "It appeared to be an internal explosion but we will wait for the probe report. It is likely that the weapons on board the fully loaded submarine detonated," the sources said.
Indian Navy's chief Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi has left for Mumbai to take stock of the situation.
INS Sindhurakshak is one of the 10 kg class submarines bought from Russia and equipped with the Russian Club-S cruise missile system.
India had spent about 80 million dollars in upgrading the vessel in Russia and it was expected to serve the Indian Navy for at least 10 years more.