Sindhurakshak tragedy: 4 months on, Indian Navy divers still look for bodies

On August 14, a huge explosion rocked the Russian-made Kilo-class submarine, commissioned in 1997.

Mumbai: Nearly four months after submarine INS Sindhurakshak sank following a huge explosion and fire here, Navy divers are still looking for bodies of missing sailors in the wreckage of the warship.

"We have not stopped the search operation, our divers are still at the job. We are trying to find out if human remains can be found", said Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha, chief of Western Naval Command.

On August 14, a huge explosion rocked the Russian-made Kilo-class submarine, commissioned in 1997, leading to the frontline warship`s sinking in what was seen as a major dent in the Indian Navy`s firepower capability.

Eighteen Navy personnel, including three officers, were on board at the time of the mishap. Till now only 11 bodies have been recovered.

An inquiry was ordered by the government in the tragedy, but its details are not yet known.

Recalling the exercise undertaken by the Navy post the disaster, Sinha said a rescue operation was immediately launched by a team of divers, who had rehearsed with a similar type of submarine. "They were made to operate in zero visibility and then sent for rescue operation."

Once the submarine was lost, the Navy invoked the emergency clause of `battle war casualty` and got the Principal Director of Naval Insurance to issue cheques to the families of the personnel killed in the tragedy, he said.

"All formalities related to payment of ex-gratia and other benefits were completed in 90 days", added Sinha.

Speaking about salvage operation, Sinha said bids received from three shortlisted companies were being currently examined to undertake the exercise to extricate the submarine.

Immediately after the Sindhurakshak disaster, Navy did an audit of all other submarines, their loaded weapons and the crew manning them, the officer said.

"We have to do a chemical analysis to find the cause of the explosion. We have to find out if it was an accident or some (human) mistake. We have to get to the root."

To a query, Sinha said the government was in the process of buying two more submarine rescue vessels.

On depleting number of submarines, he admitted the induction programme has not kept pace and the first indigenous warship will be available only in 2016.