The deep sea attack vessel INS Sindhurakshak, recently refurbished in Russia, suffered an unexplained minor explosion just after Tuesday midnight. Immediately later came a deafening blast heard almost in the whole of south Mumbai.
In no time, the 2,300-tonne submarine, a Kilo class powered by a combination of diesel generators and electric batteries, was on fire, the flames leaping high.
Television footage of the incident showed a huge ball of fire lighting up the night sky. The fire lasted for nearly three hours before it was brought under control.
The vessel eventually sank around dawn, with the 18 officers and sailors onboard.
Out of 21 crew members who were on board the deep sea vessel, three guards who were on the surface of the submarine managed to jump into the sea within seconds after the blast.
While the other 18 members who were on board at the time of the mishap were trapped in and are still reported missing.
The submarine had returned after a major upgrade programme in Russia 3-4 months ago and was capable of carrying a potent weapons package including the anti-ship ‘Club’ missiles.
The 18 members of the crew are reported to be trapped inside the hull of the ill-fated submarine. Naval officials said the rapid spread of the fire and the intensity of the explosions left the trapped men with no chance of escaping. Navy divers were unable to enter the water as the quantum of heat that was generated out of the blaze and blast prevented them from progressing the rescue operation.
It was only by Wednesday afternoon that navy divers entered the sunk vessel, only partly visible at the surface, after forcing open the jammed hatch.
In addition, the water that has flooded the vessel has to be pumped out and only then can the submarine be surfaced again.
About INS Sindhurakshak
Name: INS Sindhurakshak
Builder: Admiralty Shipyard
Laid down: February 16, 1995
Launched: 26 June 1997
Commissioned: 24 December 1997
Status: Sank at Naval Dockyard, Mumbai due to major explosions
Class & type: Kilo-class (Sindhughosh-class) submarine
Type: Project 877 EKM submarine
Displacement: 2325 tons surfaced, 3076 tons submerged
Length: 72.6 m (238 ft)
Beam: 9.9 m (32 ft)
12.02 am: The first fire was spotted
12.06 am: A loud explosion is heard and a huge ball of fire seen in the sky
Drowned: The vessel then submerged under three meters of water, with the bow going down first
Trapped: The temperature of the water that had entered the vessel rose to boiling point, thereby trapping the 18-member crew inside the submarine. Graphic/Amit Bandre