Four bodies found in sunken India submarine

In this handout photograph released by the Ministry of Defence, Chief for Indian Naval Staff, Admiral D.K. Joshi (L) briefs Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony (C) at the scene as Indian Navy personnel work at the conning tower of the stricken INS Sindhurakshak, after the submarine sank following an explosion at the naval dockyard in Mumbai on August 14, 2013 The navy says that it will continue the search until all bodies are located or it can be stated with finality that none remain to be found

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Indian navy divers have recovered four bodies from a submarine which sank after it exploded in a Mumbai dockyard, with 18 sailors feared dead on board.

"Four bodies have been located and extricated... They are severely disfigured and not identifiable due to severe burns," a navy spokesman said.

"A search is on for more but finding any survivors is unlikely," he added.

Earlier, the navy released names of the 18 missing crew members, whose families have begun arriving in Mumbai.

It is not clear what caused the blasts on the diesel and electricity-powered INS Sindhurakshak.

INS Sindhurakshak timeline

  • 1997: INS Sindhurakshak procured by Indian navy, one of the 10 vessels in the Kilo-class submarines bought from Russia between 1986-2000
  • February 2010: A fire that broke out in its battery compartment kills one sailor
  • August 2010: Submarine sent for re-fit to equip it with cruise missile systems
  • June 2012: Refit completed with refurbished hull and 10 years added to its 25-year service life
  • October 20102: Sea trials begin for submarine
  • 14 August 2013: Submarine hit by explosion and fire with sailors trapped inside

An inquiry is under way and sabotage has not been ruled out, although officials say that looks unlikely.

'Jammed doors, distorted ladders'

Diving teams have been working "non-stop" to get inside the submarine since rescue operations began on 14 August, the navy said.

"Access to the inner compartments of the submarine was made almost impossible due to jammed doors and hatches, distorted ladders, oily and muddy waters inside the submerged submarine resulting in total darkness and nil-visibility even with high power underwater lamps," the spokesman told reporters on Friday morning.

Divers were only able to reach "the second compartment behind the conning tower" where three bodies were found "after 36 hours of continuous diving effort", he said, adding that the bodies had been sent to the naval hospital for possible DNA identification.

The fourth body, which was found later, has also been sent for identification.

The state of the bodies and conditions within the submarine "led to [the] firm conclusion that finding any surviving personnel within the submarine is unlikely", the spokesman said.

The operation was made even more difficult "as the explosion and very high temperatures, which melted steel within, would have incinerated the bodies too", he added.

"However, the navy will continue to search every inch of the submarine till all bodies are either located or it can be stated with finality that no bodies remain to be found.

Amateur video shown on Indian television showed a large fireball illuminating the sky

"Salvage of the submarine would only be attempted thereafter for which many alternatives including deploying professional salvers are being considered," he said.

On Thursday night, the navy released the names of the 18 missing crew, which included three officers and 15 sailors.

A Navy press note said the three officers were Lt Commander Nikhilesh Pal, Lt Commander Alok Kumar and Lt Commander R Venkatraj.

The sailors were identified as Sanjeev Kumar, KC Upadhyay, Timothy Sinha, Keval Singh, Sunil Kumar, Dasari Prasad, Liju Lawrence, Rajesh Tootika, Amit Singh, Atul Sharma, Vikas, Naruttam Deuri, Malay Haldar, Vishnu V and Sitaram Badapalle.

The INS Sindhurakshak is one of the 10 Kilo-class submarines bought from Russia between 1986 and 2000. It is equipped with Russian Club-S cruise missile systems.

The vessel had recently been upgraded at a cost of $80m (£52m) and it was armed with missiles and torpedoes.

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