Mumbai: A huge explosion and fire have destroyed India’s most advanced diesel-electric submarine, the INS Sindhurakshak, which was docked at a high-security military dockyard in Mumbai. About 18 sailors are feared killed in the vessel, which tilted and has sunk nose down. Defence Minister AK Antony confirmed the death of sailors outside Parliament this morning but did not give any details.
There has been no contact established yet with the personnel feared trapped on board. It is not clear if some sailors jumped to safety before it went down. Some injured personnel have been admitted to a navy hospital in Mumbai’s Colaba but it is not clear if they were from the INS Sindhurakshak.There is no word on casualties or on what caused the explosion, amid speculation on whether a fire caused weapons on board to explode. According to sources in the Ministry of Defence, early reports said the explosion happened in the armament chamber of the fully-armed submarine, which carried heavy weight torpedos and “Klub” anti-shipping and land attack missiles.
Navy divers are conducting rescue and salvage operations, but have not been able to enter the submarine yet. A Navy statement said the submarine, refurbished three months ago in Russia at a cost of Rs. 480 crore, is “submerged at her berth with only a portion visible above the surface.” Reports said another submarine docked close by, the INS Sindhuratna, managed to pull away, but has been damaged in the explosion.
Defence Minister AK Antony will visit Mumbai today; Navy Chief Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi has left for Mumbai.