Indian divers are struggling to search a submarine which sank after it exploded in a Mumbai dockyard with 18 sailors feared dead inside.
Rescuers are yet to reach any of the crew who were on board when two huge explosions led to a devastating fire early on Wednesday.
Officials say they have been hampered by poor visibility, restricted space and equipment displaced by the blasts.The divers are also working to bring the vessel back to surface. India’s navy chief has warned the country to “prepare for the worst”.
It is not clear what caused the blasts on the diesel and electricity-powered INS Sindhurakshak. An inquiry is under way and sabotage has not been ruled out, although officials say that looks unlikely at this stage.
Officials say divers aboard the submarine are working around the clock in difficult conditions.
The vessel is filled with sea-water and the heat of the explosion also melted parts of the internal hull, deforming the submarine hatches and preventing access to compartments. Heavy duty pumps are being used to pump out water in order to help refloat the vessel.
As India marked Independence Day, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed sorrow: “We are deeply pained that we lost the submarine INS Sindurakshak in an accident yesterday. Eighteen brave sailors are feared to have lost their lives,” he said.
The prime minister said it was all the more painful considering the navy’s recent successes in launching a home-built submarine and acquiring a nuclear submarine.