18 submariners aboard INS Sindhurakshak dead: Navy

An Indian Navy submarine was rocked by a massive explosion and engulfed in flames at a high security dockyard in Mumbai.

MUMBAI: The Indian Navy on Wednesday confirmed that all the 18 sailors on board the INS Sindhurakshak are dead.

The Navy chief Admiral DK Joshi while briefing the media said, "We have to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. Just short of midnight, there were two-near simultaneous explosions. There were three officers and 15 sailors in the submarine.

"Water entered from the bow end, flooding the submarine. Submarine was flooded after hole was ripped out in the vessel. We don't know why the fire broke out. It took two hours to control the fire"

Joshi said the role of a sabotage cannot be ruled out in the tragedy. He added that a board of inquiry instituted to probe into the incident. The report of the inquiry will be ready in four weeks, he said.

The sailors were on board the INS Sindhurakshak submarine berthed at the naval dockyard after the submarine was rocked by a massive explosion and engulfed in flames.

Despite all efforts by rescue and relief teams, the submarine could not be saved and sank shortly after dawn.

A team of navy divers was mobilised to search for survivors and 16 fire tenders were brought in to put out the blaze.

Defence Minister AK Antony said that he feels sad about the sailors who lost their lives in the fire on the submarine.

"I feel sad about those navy personnel who lost their lives for the country," Antony told reporters outside parliament.

The submarine that underwent a major refit in Russia, was rocked by a massive explosion and engulfed in flames at a high security dockyard in Mumbai. Many sailors jumped off to safety, but 18 were feared to be trapped inside.

The deafening blast followed by a fire occurred shortly after midnight on the INS Sindhurakshak submarine at the naval dockyard, officials said.

Some INS Sindhurakshak sailors have been rushed to naval hospital INHS Ashvini in Colaba.

INS Sindhurakshak is an Indian Navy diesel-electric submarine that has been handed back to India following a major refit at Russia's Zvezdochka shipyard.

A board of inquiry has been ordered.

Ruling out sabotage, former Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash told IBN-Live: 'Procedures are pretty much watertight and sabotage is remote.'

Several former naval officers have been hinting that torpedo and missile with warheads on board may have exploded causing the fire.

A fire brigade official said that around 3 am, the blaze had been brought under control and prevented from spreading to other vessels docked in the vicinity.

The blast was first heard ashore by deputy chief fire office PS Rahandale who was on leave and attending a private engagement near the Gateway of India promenade. He immediately alerted the fire brigade and other emergency services.

The contract for the refit and modernisation of the INS Sindhurakshak (S63), a Project 877 EKM (NATO Kilo-class) submarine was signed in June 2010.

Part of the refit involved installation of equipment for Klub-S (3M54E1 anti-ship and 3M14E land attack) cruise missiles and over 10 Indian and foreign-made systems, including the Ushus hydro-acoustic (sonar) system and CSS-MK-2 radio communications system.

In addition, the boat's cooling system was modified, a "Porpoise" radio-locater fitted and other work carried out "increasing the boat's military capacity and safety".

The submarine displaces 2,300 tonnes, carries 52 crew members, has a top speed of 19 knots (35 km per hour) and diving depth of 300 metres.

"The Sindhurakshak today is perhaps the worst accident that the Indian navy's submarine arm has ever had," said defence expert and former commodore Uday Bhaskar, adding that it "takes some of the sheen away" from the navy's latest achievements.

Statement issued by the Indian Navy:

An explosion resulting in a major fire took place on board INS Sindhurakshak, a Kilo class submarine of the Indian Navy, shortly after midnight on 14 August 2013. 

Fire tenders from the Naval Dockyard as well as the Mumbai Fire Brigade were immediately pressed into action. 

However, due to as yet unknown damage suffered as a result of the explosion, the submarine has submerged at her berth with only a portion visible above the surface. 

About 18 persons were on board the submarine at the time of the accident and efforts are on to ascertain the safety of the personnel and salvage of the submarine. A Board of Inquiry is being instituted to investigate into the causes of the accident.