Indian Navy says all 18 sailors dead in submarine tragedy
After recovering three disfigured charred bodies, the Indian Navy Friday ruled out finding any more survivors on its ill-fated INS Sindhurakshak submarine which was gutted in a blaze following multiple explosions and sank at Mumbai's naval dockyard Wednesday.
Some 18 sailors were on board the Russia-made vessel when the mishap happened, though three others escaped with minor injuries as they were on the outer casing of the submarine and jumped into the sea when it exploded.
"Three bodies have been located and extricated from the submarine from this compartment. The bodies are severely disfigured and not identifiable due to severe burns. The bodies have been sent to INHS Asvini, the naval hospital, for possible DNA identification," the Indian Navy said in a statement.
It added: "The state of these bodies and conditions within the submarine leads to firm conclusion that finding any surviving personnel within the submarine is unlikely."
In fact, the Indian Navy fears the bodies of other sailors could have melted due to high temperature within the vessel following the explosions.
"The damage and the destruction within the submarine around the control room area indicate that the feasibility of locating bodies of the personnel in the forward part of the submarine is also very remote as the explosion and very high temperatures, which melted steel within, would have incinerated the bodies too," the Indian Navy said.
However, the Indian Navy said that its divers would continue to search every inch of the submerged submarine "till all bodies are either located or it can be stated with finality that no bodies remain to be found".
Though the Indian government did not announce the deaths earlier, Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Wednesday expressed his condolences to the families of the dead personnel. "I extend all humanly possible assistance to members of the sailors' family," he said.
The Indian Navy has ordered a high level probe into the incident, which took place a day before India's Independence Day and only two days after India launched its first indigenous aircraft carrier, hailed as a "crowning glory" by naval officials.
However, defense sources say the submarine was fully loaded when the explosion took place in the weapons' bay and the fire could have resulted due to the detonation of torpedoes or missiles on board the vessel which was not on active duty at the time of the incident.
A similar explosion in the same submarine in 2010 claimed the life of one sailor. The vessel was at the time berthed at Visakhapatnam port in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
In fact, the 16-year-old INS Sindhurakshak is one of the 10 kilo-class submarines bought from Russia and equipped with the Russian Club-S cruise missile system. India had spent some 80 million U.S. dollars to upgrade it in Russia recently and it's expected to serve Indian Navy for 10 more years.
New Delhi (Xinhua)