India battles to re-float sub after blast
INDIAN divers and engineers battled yesterday to re-float a submarine that exploded with 18 crewmen on board, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh voiced "deep regret" over the accident, which is feared to have left no survivors.
The fully armed INS Sindhurakshak - returned by its maker, Russia, earlier this year following a major refit - sank after it was engulfed by a fireball that lit up the night sky at a Mumbai dock early on Wednesday.
Eighteen sailors were on board the submarine at the time, while three sailors who were on the outside of the vessel managed to leap to safety.
Divers had opened the main hatch and heavy-duty pumps were being used to expel seawater inside the diesel-powered vessel, which lay mostly submerged in shallow water, officials said.
Visibility was poor inside the vessel, due to the muddy water which had gushed into the submarine after the explosion occurred.
None of the missing sailors had been spotted so far, the spokesman said, adding that the intense heat from the explosion had melted interior parts of the hull and damaged hatches, preventing access to compartments.
The disaster has cast a long shadow over India's defence capabilities as it seeks to counter a military build-up by increasingly assertive China.
Dr Singh, addressing the nation in a traditional Independence Day speech at the Red Fort monument in Delhi, voiced sorrow over the tragedy, which marked a major setback for the rapidly modernising navy.
"We have deep regret that we lost the submarine INS Sindhurakshak in an accident," he said.
"The accident is all the more painful because the navy recently achieved two major successes, in the form of its first nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, and the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant," Dr Singh said.