Mumbai, Aug. 16: The navy today virtually ruled out the possibility of survivors on INS Sindhurakshak as naval divers recovered five severely disfigured bodies from the submarine, which submerged after an explosion at the Naval Dockyard here on Tuesday night.
The bodies, extricated from the second compartment behind the conning tower, were burnt beyond any possibility of identification, naval officials said. They have been sent to INHS Asvini, the naval hospital, for possible DNA identification.
A navy statement this morning admitted there was little possibility of survivors among the 18 crew members who were on board during the tragedy.
Malay Halder, 22, from Durgapur, was one of the sailors on board. His parents, Sujata and Mrinal, have reached Mumbai. ( )
“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 (the) very high temperatures, which melted steel within, would have incinerated the bodies too,” the navy statement said.
But a naval spokesperson added: “The navy will continue to search every inch of the submerged submarine till all the bodies are located or it can be stated with finality that no bodies remain to be found.”
Since August 14 noon, when the rescue operations began, navy divers have been working round the clock.
Initially, the boiling water inside the submarine prevented entry. “Access to the inner compartments was impossible due to jammed doors and hatches, distorted ladders, and oily and muddy waters inside the submerged submarine, resulting in total darkness and nil visibility even with high-power underwater lamps,” the spokesperson said.
As the extreme heat generated by the explosion had inflicted severe internal damage, the divers had to make their way through twisted metal within a very restricted space.
“This resulted in a very slow and laboured progress. Only one diver could work at a time to clear the path to gain access. After 36 hours of continuous effort in these conditions, the divers reached the second compartment behind the conning tower in the early hours of August 16,” the official said.
The navy indicated that its priority would be to extricate “any remaining bodies that may still be trapped within” before any salvage operation could be conducted, perhaps with professional help.
“Families of all the 18 (affected) personnel have been contacted and are being provided regular updates through constant interaction by the family cell, headed by a two-star flag officer, and members of the Navy Wives Welfare Association,” the official said.
Sources said the recovered bodies could be sent to JJ Hospital since INHS Asvini lacked post-mortem facilities.
The JJ Hospital dean, Dr T.P. Lahane, confirmed that two of the four bodies had been brought to the state-run hospital at 7.35pm.
“The post-mortem is going on. We will also take DNA samples and send them to the Karina forensic lab,” Dr Lahane said.
Mumbai police today registered a case of accidental death in connection with the submarine tragedy. It was lodged on a complaint by Gopal Singh Rajput, a doctor on one of the other submarines berthed at the dockyard.