Divers struggle to find victims of blasts on submarine

NEW DELHI Thu Aug 15, 2013 5:38pm IST

Navy personal and rescue workers stand on a dock at the naval dockyard in Mumbai August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Navy personal and rescue workers stand on a dock at the naval dockyard in Mumbai August 14, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Divers struggled in poor visibility inside an Indian navy submarine on Thursday to find 18 sailors who were inside the vessel when some of its weapons detonated and a fire swept through it as it lay berthed in a Mumbai base.

There has been no sign of life from the Russian-built INS Sindhurakshak since it sank late on Tuesday following two big explosions. It was the biggest peacetime loss for the Indian navy since a war with Pakistan in 1971 and turned the spotlight on its ageing submarine fleet.

The Defence Ministry said a large amount of seawater had entered the diesel-powered submarine, hampering visibility, while the damage caused by the explosion was blocking access to some areas.

"Trapped personnel have not yet been sighted or recovered," the ministry said in a statement.

The 16-year-old submarine, which had suffered an accident in 2010, had recently returned from Russia after a 2-1/2 year upgrade of its electronic warfare and integrated weapons control systems.

The explosions took place in the vessel's forward section, where its torpedoes and missiles are stored.

While divers managed to pry open one of the hatches, the heat of the explosion had melted parts of the internal hull twisting the others, blocking access to different compartments, the Defence Ministry said.

INS Sindhurakshak is a Kilo class vessel which were built in Soviet and later Russian shipyards for the Indian navy from 1985 to 2000. The navy has 10 of the submarines and four German HDW boats.

Uday Bhaskar, a fellow at the national Maritime Foundation said the navy's fleet of conventional submarines was getting smaller by the day. India has not been able to buy new submarines nor build new ones, he said.

"So we've been trying to make do with very old platforms," he said.

This week, though, the navy launched its first indigenously built aircraft carrier and activated the reactor on its first domestically built nuclear-propelled submarine. But both the carrier and the submarine have been decades in the making and will take several years before they are fully operational.

Some experts argue that instead of building expensive aircraft carriers and trying to project power far beyond its shores, the navy should be focusing on its severely depleted underwater arm to counter the growing reach of the Chinese navy.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Markets

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Segway in India

Segway in India

Segway’s India business pegs hope on tech-savvy Modi  Full Article 

Power Outage

Power Outage

Mumbai hit by power cuts  Full Article 

Commodities

Commodities

Gold imports, premiums to jump on festive demand - top refiner  Full Article 

Economic Worries

Economic Worries

Pakistan's promises to IMF in doubt as protests sap economy   Full Article 

Islamic Finance

Islamic Finance

Basel III deposit challenge looms over Islamic banks   Full Article 

Antitrust Probes

Antitrust Probes

U.S. business lobby says concerned China antitrust probes unfair.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage