Zee Media Bureau/Manisha Singh
Mumbai: Expressing fear that all crew members on board may have perished in the fire that engulfed INS Sindhurakshak, an Indian Navy diesel-electric submarine, at a high-security dockyard in Mumbai, Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi said on Wednesday that rescue operations were on.
Confirming that there were three officers and fifteen sailors on the submarine, Admiral Joshi said, "We hope for the best but have to prepare for the worst. There may be trapped soldiers in the watertight section." "Out of them two officers and six soldiers were married," he revealed.
Addressing the press here, the Naval Chief said that just short of midnight there were two simultaneous explosions on board and that there may be many potential reasons for the fire on the submarine. "There were explosives, oxygen bottles, fuel and batteries on the submarine," he said.
Explaining the cause as to why the submarine had sank he said, "The submarine had flooded after a hole was ripped out in the vessel," and added, "It took two hours to douse the fire."
Whether sabotage could have been a reason for the fire, Admiral DK Joshi said that it could not be ruled out, though indications right now did not point towards that. "We need to examine the incident in detail. No cause of fire is known as yet. We will have to wait for the forensic report," he said.
On rescue efforts he said that divers had opened the main hatch and plans were on to remove floodwater from the submarine. He also added that the submarine had undergone certification last month. "Battery was changed three days ago and hydrogen emissions are unlikely. Fires are not supposed to happen but obviously the safety mechanism did not work," he said.
He also clarified that the cause of the recent tragedy had nothing to do with the 2010 incident. A minor fire had broken out aboard Sindhurakshak while the vessel was in Visakhapatnam in February 2010, in which one sailor was killed and two others were injured. The cause of the fire at that time was said to be an explosion in the submarine`s battery compartment, which was reported to have occurred due to a faulty battery valve that leaked hydrogen gas.
Admiral Joshi assured the media that they would be briefed about everything related to the incident. "It is a tragedy. There is nothing to hide," he said.
Sindhurakshak had undergone a major refit in Russia at Russia`s Zvezdochka shipyard.