Mumbai: As navy divers struggle to salvage INS Sindhurakshak, the submarine that exploded with 18 crewmen on board on Wednesday, it now emerges that procedures may have been violated that resulted in what the government has called the "greatest tragedy in recent times."
The fully armed, diesel-powered world-class submarine went up in flames at the high-security naval dockyard in Mumbai and sank. (Pics) | (Watch video of explosion)
"We have deep regret about the accident involving INS Sindhurakshak in which 18 of our brave men are feared to have been martyred," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today in his Independence Day address.
As news is awaited on the fate of the 15 sailors and three officers who were on board the submarine, a preliminary assessment by a board of inquiry, sources say, has suggested that the navymen made a mistake while loading a Klub cruise missile which can strike targets 300 kilometres away.
The submarine was fully loaded when the explosion took place shortly after midnight; missiles and torpedoes were detonated in the fire. Torpedoes are launched underwater to attack other submarines while missiles are used for long ranges above water.
The board of inquiry is also looking at whether the accident happened because of non-compliance of standard operating procedures or because of equipment failure. It will also look at the possibility of sabotage, but "the indicators at this point of time do not support that theory", Navy Chief DK Joshi said on Wednesday.
The probe into the disaster is to be completed within four weeks.
The INS Sindhurakshak had been returned by Russia less than a year ago after a major refit which cost India nearly Rs 480 crore. (Read: Submarine was fine after refit, says Russian firm)
The sinking of the submarine is a huge setback for the ambitious modernisation drive of the Indian navy which has a total of 14 submarines of which only between seven and nine are operational at any point because of regular repair and refitting operations. (Read: How this loss impacts Indian Navy)