Coming late for duty saved sailor's life

Aug 16, 2013, 00:56 IST | Iram Siddique

Had he arrived on time, Ajit Singh of INS Sindhuratna, would have been crossing over INS Sindhurakshak to reach his vessel, but he witnessed the blasts some distance from the jetty

Ajit Singh, a sailor on INS Sindhuratna, had a chance escape from the explosion on INS Sindhurakshak that killed 18 mariners on Wednesday, as he was late for duty.

Mission rescue: Heavy duty pumps were being used to flush out seawater from the vessel as part of the salvage operations under way at the Naval Dockyard yesterday. Pic/Shadab Khan

On Wednesday, the two submarines were docked at the harbour -- Sindhurakshak along the jetty and Sindhuratna a few metres ahead. The sailors of Sindhuratna usually walked over the first one to reach their vessel. Singh came close to making his way to Sindhurakshak and would have gone up in flames had he arrived on time.

A short distance away from the jetty, he witnessed the detonations. The gangway, a heavy concrete plank that generally needs a crane to be moved, snapped off and went vaulting up in the sky, he recalled.

All submarines have a 6-inch protective rubber coat. But the blast incinerated the film on the side facing the explosion. All 6 inches melted away, revealing the metal skeleton of the sub. The sailors present on Sindhuratna jumped off after declaring it ‘abandoned’.

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Navy still looking for sailors in submarine
Indian Navy divers are yet to trace the 18 sailors and officers trapped in the submarine that sank here after explosions and a raging fire, the defence ministry said yesterday.

“Efforts continue round the clock to ascertain their status. The trapped personnel have not yet been sighted or recovered,” a statement from the ministry said.

The divers’ efforts were seriously hampered by poor visibility inside the INS Sindhurakshak as the submarine was filled with water, it said.

Most of its equipment had also got displaced from their original location.

The heat of the explosion had melted parts of the internal hull, deforming the submarine hatches and preventing access to various compartments.

Heavy duty pumps were being used to pump out seawater from the vessel.

The cause of the explosions and fire which consumed the submarine within six hours was still not clear -- nearly 36 hours after the disaster.

The defence ministry has also ordered an inquiry.
-- Agencies

‘Impossible to find remains of dead’
A Navy official, describing the extent of the damage on INS Sindhurakshak, said, “The front three compartments are completely destroyed. Though they are airtight and watertight, the intensity of the explosion melted their metal, fusing the three separate compartments into one. With the blast magnitude, it is impossible to find even the remains of the dead, let alone any survivor.”  

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