Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Many sailors feared dead in fire on board INS Sindhurakshak; rescue operations underway

New Delhi: Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013(7STARNEWS)In one of the worst tragedies in the history of Indian Navy, an explosion on board conventionally powered submarine INS Sindhurakshak killed several sailors and damaged another submarine INS Sindhuratna on Wednesday.

A few minutes past midnight on Wednesday, a blast ripped through the Kilo class submarine INS Sindhurakshak, which was docked at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai.

According to TV reports, the submarine, which had 18 sailors on board, has submerged with only a portion of it visible. Rescuers are unable to enter the submarine as its hatches are crumpled.

Most of the crew is feared dead.

INS Sindhurakshak was fully armed at the time of the accident. As a result, when the fire spread to the forward portion, which contains the torpedoes, it set off several devastating explosions, which hit another submarine INS Sindhuratna.

However, damage to INS Sindhuratna is minor as per reports. Both submarines were Kilo class and were upgraded recently.

Naval sources told dna that the likely cause of the accident was faulty batteries, which were being charged when the accident took place.

Hydrogen could have leaked out of the batteries leading to a dangerous build-up causing the blast.

INS Sindhurakshak doesn\'t have a submersible escape pod that can help the 18 trapped sailors to reach the surface. Having taken a lot of water after the blast, the submarine is reported to have sunk with the men on board.

A naval Board of Inquiry has been constituted to look into the matter.

Around 16 fire engines along with water tankers, rescue vehicles, ambulances have been rushed to the spot.

\"The rescue work is in progress, however the cause of fire is still unknown,\"said Narendra Vispute, PRO, Ministry of Defence.

\"The locals have told us that many people are trapped inside,\" said a fire official from the control room.

\"There are some people who are trapped on board, we are in the process of trying to rescue them, we suspect it to be in the range of 18,\" said Navy spokesman PVS Satish.

\"We will not give up until we get to them,\" Satish said. The explosion inside the INS Sindhurakshak was likely an accident, Satish said. Photos distributed by social media users appeared to show a large fireball over the navy dock where the diesel-electric submarine was berthed.

INS Sindhurakshak was upgraded at a Russian shipyard last year, according to Russian media.

The apparent accident comes in the same week as India launched a locally refitted aircraft carrier due for completion in 2017, and announced that the reactor on its first home-built nuclear submarine was now operational.

Sources said that the injured were being taken to INHS Ashwini for treatment and no casualties were reported yet.

INS Sindhurakshak was not on active duty at the time of the accident, Navy sources said.

The incident has come at a time when the Navy is facing a situation of depleting submarine fleet.

The INS Sindhurakshak was commissioned in December 1997 under Commander Vithal Peshwe in Mumbai. It is one of the 10 Kilo class submarines purchased from Russia in the 80s.

Eight out of the 10 Kilo class submarines have been upgraded with weaponry, sonars, etc., to make them fit to serve for a few more decades.

With the refit it can also carry the modern Russian Klub class missiles and is also being prepared to carry the Brahmos cruise missile.

INS Sindhurakshak is a conventional diesel submarine that needs to surface every day to recharge its batteries. It has a displacement of 3,000 tonnes and a maximum diving depth of 300 metres.

In the last few years, there have been several mishaps involving naval vessels. In 2008, another vessel of the Kilo class, INS Sindhugosh, collided with a merchant vessel off Mumbai while participating in a naval exercise.

A similar accident had taken place on board INS Sindhurakshak on February 26, 2010, in which a sailor was killed. The submarine was berthed in Vizag when the accident took place.

In 2011, a surface warship INS Vindhyagiri caught fire when it collided with a merchant vessel near the Mumbai harbour while returning from a picnic with families of group of officers deployed on board.

On its way back, it hit another ship leaving the harbour.

Nobody was injured but the warship was virtually ruined.

Navy chief visits dockyard to take stock of the situation

Navy chief Admiral DK Joshi has arrived at the naval dockyard in Mumbai where an explosion rocked an Indian Navy submarine that caught fire, informed sources said.

Earlier, a navy spokesman confirmed that a incident of fire was reported \"in one of the Indian naval unit in naval dockyard Mumbai\".

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