NEW DELHI —
All 18 sailors aboard an Indian submarine hit Wednesday by twin explosions and an intense fire are feared dead, a naval official said. The submarine had also been damaged in a deadly explosion in 2010 and had only recently returned to service.
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because divers had yet to recover any bodies, said the navy believed there was no way anyone could have survived the intensity of the blasts and the fire, which occurred when the diesel-powered submarine was docked at a Mumbai navy base.
Officials had said earlier that there had been no contact with the sailors since the explosions, which lit up the sky above the base. They said navy divers had opened one of the submarine’s hatches but had not yet been able to enter the vessel because it was dark and full of muddy water.
“We hope for the best, but we have to prepare for the worst,” Adm. D.K. Joshi, the navy chief, told reporters in Mumbai.
The explosions in the torpedo compartment of the 16-year-old Russian-made INS Sindhurakshak sent a huge fireball into the air and caused nearby sailors to jump into the sea in panic. It is shaping up to be another embarrassment for India’s military, which has been hit with a corruption scandal as it races to modernize its forces.
Defense Minister A.K. Antony said some sailors were killed but gave no other details.
“It’s a loss to all of us. It’s a tragedy,” Antony said in New Delhi before leaving for Mumbai.
Because the submarine was docked, a unit of navy watchmen, and not the normal crew, was on board when the blasts occurred, Joshi said, adding that at least some weaponry exploded in the near-simultaneous blasts.
Navy spokesman Narendra Vispute said the cause of the explosions was being investigated.
The submarine had recently returned from Russia after a 21
2 year refit, overhaul and upgrade, said Rahul Bedi, an analyst for the independent Jane’s Information Group.
Russian ship repair company Zvyozdochka said the blasts were unrelated to its repair work.
— Associated Press