Five bodies recovered from sunken INS Sindhurakshak submarine

Aug 16, 2013, 18:07 IST | Agencies

With the Defence Ministry ruling out survivors, bodies of five sailors were recovered Friday by a naval team of divers from INS Sindhurakshak submarine that exploded, caught fire and sank here early Wednesday, an official said.

"Efforts to trace and retrieve the other 13 bodies of sailors are underway on a war footing and we are hopeful of further recoveries by late this evening," an official said.

These five were among the 18 sailors, including three officers, who were trapped inside the submarine.

The five bodies have been sent to the government-run Sir J J Hospital for autopsy, DNA and other tests to ascertain their identity and complete the other formalities.

The defence ministry has ruled out the possibility of any survivors from the submarine in a statement after three bodies were recovered.

Rescue operations being carried out by Indian Navy divers and personnel. Pic/Bipin Kokate

"The state of ...(the three recovered bodies) and conditions within the submarine leads to the firm conclusion that finding any surviving personnel within the submarine is unlikely," the Indian Navy said in a statement.

"The damage and destruction within the submarine around the control room area indicates that the feasibility of locating bodies of personnel in the forward part of the submarine is also very remote as the explosion and very high temperatures, which melted steel within, would have incinerated the bodies too,” the statement added.

However, the Indian Navy is hopeful that some of the armaments inside the deep-sea fighter vessel, stored on the rear side maybe recovered undamaged as the flames did not completely gut that portion of the submarine.

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

The defence ministry late Thursday released the names of the three officers and 15 sailors who were aboard the ill-fated submarine INS Sindhurakshak.

The officers are three Lt.Commanders - Nikhilesh Pal, Alok Kumar and R. Venkitaraj.

The sailor crew members are: Sanjeev Kumar, K.C. Upadhyay, Timothy Sinha (all POUW-I), Kewal Singh (LSUC-I), Sunil Kumar (SEA I UW-III), Dasari Prasad (Mech-R 2), Liju Lawrence, LEMP, Rajesh Tootika (LME), Amit K. Singh (STD-I), Atul Sharma and Vikas E. (both SEA-I), Naruttam Deuri (ME-I), Malay Haldar (EMR-II), Vishnu V. (RO-II) and Seetaram Badapalli (LS RP-I).

Eight of these 15 personnel, including two officers, were married. 

Rescue operations being carried out by Indian Navy divers and personnel. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The statement said navy diving teams have been working non-stop to reach into the compartments of the submarine since rescue operations commenced at noon on Wednesday.

"The boiling waters inside the submarine prevented any entry" till Wednesday noon.

"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.

"Distorted and twisted metal within very restricted space due to extensive internal damage caused by the explosion further worsened conditions for the divers. This resulted in very slow and laboured progress," the statement said.

Only one diver could work at a time to clear the path to gain access, the statement said, adding that after 36 hours of "continuous diving effort in these conditions", navy divers finally reached the second compartment behind the conning tower in the early hours of Friday.

The navy said it was concentrating on reaching the interiors of the submarine to "locate and extricate any remaining bodies that may still be trapped within".

Illustraion of the INS Sindhurakshak explosion. Graphic/Amit Bandre

"Salvage of the submarine would only be attempted thereafter for which many alternatives including deploying professional salvers are also being considered. However, presently, gaining access to the submarine and locating bodies is the top priority," the navy said.

The families of all the 18 missing personnel have been contacted "and are being provided regular updates through constant interaction" by the Family Cell headed by a rear admiral and members of the Navy Wives Welfare Association.

The cause of the explosions and a raging fire - to which the submarine succumbed within six hours and sank - is still not clear nearly three days after the incident.

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