Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Bodies of four sailors recovered

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Mumbai: Battling difficult conditions, rescuers from Indian Navy on Friday extricated disfigured bodies of four of its personnel from submarine INS Sindhurakshak, more than two days after serial explosions on the vessel, carrying 18 naval personnel, triggered a massive blaze, with little hope of finding any survivors.

The bodies have been shifted to naval hospital INS Ashwini for DNA sampling for facilitating identification on-the-spot identification was not possible, Defence spokesman Narendra Vispute said.

“The state of the bodies and condition within the submarine leads to firm conclusion that finding any surviving personnel within the submarine is unlikely,” a Navy press release said.

Boiling water inside the warship, which sank, had thwarted all attempts by rescuers at entering the ill-fated Russia-made vessel earlier.

“Access to the inner compartments of the submarine was almost impossible due to jammed doors, distorted ladders, oily and muddy water inside the submerged submarine resulting in total darkness and nil visibility even with high powered under water lamps,” the release said.

The distorted and twisted metal within very restricted space due to extensive internal damage caused by the explosion further worsened conditions for the divers which resulted in a very slow and laboured progress, it said.

Only one diver could work at a time to clear the path to gain access, it said, adding it was only after 36 hours of continuous diving effort that Navy divers could finally reach the second compartment behind the conning tower in the early hours today.

“The damage and the destruction within the submarine around the control room area indicate that the feasibility of locating bodies of the 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 Navy said.

“The process is very slow but our divers are on the job 24X7,” spokesman Vispute said, adding officers have been deployed to extend all assistance to the families of the victims.

“Miracles do happen….There may be some air pocket or some may have got access to breathing sacks,” Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi had said after inspecting the site of the disaster along with Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday.

However, a Navy release this morning painted a grim picture about the possibility of finding any survivors inside the Russia-made underwater craft which sank partially after exploding. “The damage and the destruction within the submarine around the control room area indicate that the feasibility of locating bodies of the 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,” it said.

The Navy had on Thursday released the names of the three officers and 15 sailors who were inside the 16-year-old Russian-made vessel.

The three officers are Lieutenant Commanders Nikhilesh Pal, Alok Kumar and R Venkitaraj. The sailors stuck inside the 2,300-tonne Kilo class vessel are Sanjeev Kumar, KC Upadhya, Timothy Sinha, Kewal Singh, Sunil Kumar Dasari Prasad, Liju Lawrence, Rajesh Tootika, Amit K Singh, Atul Sharma, Vikas E Naruttam Deuri, Malay Haldar, Vishnu V and Seetaram Badapalli.

In the worst peacetime disaster to have struck the Navy, a series of blasts had rocked its frontline submarine at the Mumbai dockyard sinking it partially in the shallow sea.

The diesel-electric submarine was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1997 at a cost of around Rs 400 crore and had gone through a Rs 450-crore extensive upgrade in Russia. (PTI)

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