Hope is fading for finding survivors aboard a Russian-built Indian Navy submarine that exploded and sank in the port of Mumbai with 18 sailors aboard.
"While we hope for the best, at the same time we also have to prepare for the worst. The boat has remained submerged, all the compartments concerned, they have remained flooded for more than 12 hours now," Indian Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi told reporters on August 14.
[All 18 sailors are feared dead, a naval official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because divers had yet to recover any
bodies. The navy believed there was no way anyone could have survived the intensity of the blasts and fire, which occurred early on Wednesday while the diesel-powered submarine was docked at a Mumbai navy base, according to an Associated Press report.]
Officials had earlier said 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 its hatches but had not yet been able to enter the submarine, which lies nearly submerged at its dock, because it was dark and full of muddy water.
The cause of the blast is not yet known.
"The basic question is what caused the fire and the explosions. We don't have an answer to the question as of now," Joshi said. "On any warship - and it is more pronounced on a submarine - there are several ingredients that can contribute to or cause a fire."
Several other people, including sailors stationed on vessels nearby, were reportedly taken to the hospital with injuries from the blast.
Navy spokesman P V S Satish said the submarine was fully operational and was carrying a "full complement of torpedoes and missiles". Reports say the 16-year-old, diesel-powered submarine had recently returned from Russia, where it had been given an overhaul and upgrade.
There was an explosion aboard the same submarine in 2010 that killed one sailor and injured two others.
Russia has already offered to help in the inquiry into the explosion, noting there are currently eight specialists in Mumbai from the Zvezdochka center where the ship was overhauled.
Last year, India leased a Russian Nerpa nuclear submarine for 10 years at a cost of US$1 billion. India has also built its own nuclear sub, and its reactor was activated for the first time on August 10. That vessel is expected to go into service in the next two years.