New Delhi: Preliminary investigations into the sinking of INS Sindhurakshak have revealed that the “near-simultaneous” explosions that preceded a fire which engulfed the submarine were caused by the possible ignition of its armaments, Defence Minister A K Antony said yesterday.
Making a statement in the Rajya Sabha, the minister said that cause of ignition is yet to be established.
“Initial assessments indicate that an internal explosion occurred in the forward compartment of the submarine where ordinance was stowed, resulting in further near-simultaneous explosions and major fire on board INS Sindhurakshak,” he said.
Antony said that explosion and resultant damage were near instantaneous and 18 naval personnel, including three officers, inside the submarine “could not evacuate.”
He said that the submarine was rocked by a fire in the intervening night of August 13-14 at the Naval dockyard in Mumbai. Antony had visited Mumbai Aug 14 to obtain a first-hand account of the situation.
“Preliminary investigations indicate that the explosion was due to the possible ignition of armament. The cause of ignition is however yet to be established,” Antony said.
He said visual and forensic examination would throw more light on the possible cause of ignition. “This will be possible only after the submarine is afloat and dewatered. A board of inquiry with all relevant specialists has been constituted to investigate the likely causes of accident at the earliest,” he said.
Antony said extensive checks on weapons-related safety systems and audit of standard operating procedures have been ordered on all operational submarines of the Indian Navy.
He said though full details were yet to emerge, the rapidity and intensity of the explosions and the resultant damage sustained by the submarines indicated that none of those aboard would have survived.
“We are deeply saddened by the incident and the resultant loss of lives. I would like to assure that all support, assistance and counselling will be provided to the families of the 18 naval personnel. A special family cell has been formed at Western Naval Command in Mumbai for this purpose,” Antony said.