Four bodies from the INS Sindhurakshak submarine, which exploded on 14 August, were recovered on Friday after two days of rescue efforts by the Indian navy diving teams.
"The state of these bodies and conditions within the submarine leads to firm conclusion that finding any surviving personnel within the submarine is unlikely," Indian Navy said in a statement. The other 14 sailors who were onboard the vessel are also believed to have died in the explosion, but their bodies are yet to be recovered.
What happened on Wednesday?
Shortly after midnight of 13 August an explosion in the submarine's front section, in the torpedo compartment, lead to a major fire inside the vessel. After another rapid explosion the 16-year-old INS Sindhurakshak sunk three metres deep in the water. Eighteen sailors were still on board.
Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi termed the accident a 'catastrophe'. Fire tenders from the Naval Dockyard and the Mumbai Fire Brigade were immediately pressed into service. The navy also ordered a board of Inquiry to launch a probe.
Rescue operations by the Navy diving teams could not begin before noon of 14 August due to "boiling waters inside the submarine," navy said in the statement.
Navy divers had faced poor visibility and could work only one at a time due to the twisted metal opening in the vessel that restricted their efforts. "After 36 hours of continuous diving effort in these conditions, Navy divers have finally reached the second compartment behind the conning tower in the early hours of 16 Aug," the statement said.
The four bodies recovered by the divers were 'severely disfigured and not identifiable'. They were sent for DNA identification at the naval hospital INHS Asvini in Mumbai.
"Don't know how much time it will take for DNA test but results will come out soon," Navy Spokesperson Narendra Kumar Vispute told ANI news.
He confirmed that the sailors would not have been alive in the vessel because "the explosion and high temperatures, which melted steel within, would have incinerated the bodies too."
The navy has been in touch with the families of all the 18 personnel.
Closure in Crisis?
On Wednesday, the navy was criticised for not disclosing enough information regarding the Russian-made submarine with the Mumbai Fire Brigade.
In an interview with Indian Express, Chief Fire Officer Suhas Joshi said, "The Navy did not give us detailed information on how many people were trapped inside. They just asked us to douse the fire. Perhaps if we were given full information, we could have planned our operation in such a way that more lives could have been saved."
The officials were, apparently, clueless about how to navigate the submarine to douse the fire and rescue the sailors on board.
The navy is now trying to extricate the rest of the bodies from the interiors of the submarine. Professional salvers will then take over the operations, the Navy stated.
Indian Navy's Weakest Link?
INS Sindhurakshak was considered as among the cutting-edge fleet by the Indian Navy. It belonged to the Kilo-class submarines made in Russia. The submarine had recently undergone a two-and-half year upgrade in Russia after an accident in 2010.
According to defence reports, the Indian Navy lags in underwater fleet raising concerns over this 'catastrophe'. This year, the navy will likely face a major deficiency in submarine fleet when 63 percent of its boats would be eligible for retirement, as warned by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Moreover, bureacratic issues have hampered the navy's plans to import and build some of its submarines, reported BBC.
Below is a list released by the Defence Ministry of the personnel who were inside INS Sindhurakshak during the catastrophe.
|S No.||Name of Officers||Rank|
|S No.||Name of Sailors||Rank|
|04.||SANJEEV KUMAR||PO UW I|
|05.||KC UPADHYAY||PO UW I|
|06.||TIMOTHY SINHA||PO UW I|
|07.||KEWAL SINGH||LS UC I|
|08.||SUNIL KUMAR||SEA I UW III|
|09.||DASARI PRASAD||MECH(R) 2|
|12.||AMIT K SINGH||STD I|
|13.||ATUL SHARMA||SEA I|
|14.||VIKAS E||SEA I|
|15.||NARUTTAM DEURI||ME I|
|16.||MALAY HALDAR||EMR II|
|17.||VISHNU V||RO II|
|18.||SEETARAM BADAPALLI||LS RP I|