Divers search for Indian sailors trapped in submarine

Eighteen sailors are trapped after an explosion in Mumbai naval yard

Hopes of finding any survivors in the wreckage of a blast in the naval dockyards of Mumbai were fading fast tonight as Indian divers struggled through murky waters to reach the sunken submarine where 18 sailors were trapped.

There has been no contact with the men who were on board since the accident on Wednesday morning.

India’s defence ministry said a large amount of seawater had entered the Russian-built INS Sindhurakshak and was creating problems for the divers. Their access was also being hampered by damage caused by the explosions.

Officials said divers had been working in shifts to try to enter the submarine’s series of hatches since it sank early Wednesday, following at least two explosions. But in a statement issued today, the defence ministry said its divers had heard no indication that any of the crew of three officers and 15 sailors had survived. “Trapped personnel have not yet been sighted or recovered,” it said.

In public, senior officers have said they are still hoping for the best. However, one naval official told the Associated Press it was assumed that all of those on board the diesel-powered vessel had died. The official, who was not identified, said the navy believed there was no way anyone could have survived the intensity of the blasts and a subsequent fire.

The sinking of the 16-year-old submarine, which earlier this year returned from a major refit in Russia, is the worst setback for the navy since the sinking of a warship by Pakistan in 1971. An inquiry has been launched to determine the cause of the explosions, which officials believe involved some of its torpedoes firing in the front portion of the vessel.

But it was not the first time that the submarine had suffered such an incident. In February 2010, a sailor on board the INS Sindhurakshak was killed by a fire that broke out in the battery compartment after a leak of hydrogen while it was docked at the Vishakhapatnam naval base.

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 vessels. Last year, the Indian navy acquired a Nerpa nuclear submarine on a 10-year lease from Russia for about £650m. India also has designed and built its own nuclear submarine, a vessel that could be deployed within two years.

This week the navy launched its first indigenously built aircraft carrier and activated the reactor on the nuclear-propelled submarine. But 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.

India’s push to try to modernise its fleet its part of a broader overhaul of its armed forces that has been going on for some time and has made India the world’s largest importer of arms and weapons systems. In 2012, it accounted for 12 per cent of global arms purchases. Indian military officials say the country is driven by the desire to take on a greater regional role but also by the strategic challenges posed by China in the region.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence