Explosion on sub that visited Portsmouth

INS Sindhurakshak during her visit to Portsmouth
INS Sindhurakshak during her visit to Portsmouth

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A submarine that visited Portsmouth six months ago has exploded in its home port in India.

The huge blast and explosion and fire that crippled the INS Sindhurakshak in Mumbai killed at least some of the 18 sailors aboard, the country’s defence minister said.

AK Antony gave no other details, but described the incident as a “tragedy”.

Before travelling to Mumbai to assess the situation, the minister told reporters: “It’s a loss to all of us. It’s a tragedy.”

Local TV news station Headlines Today showed video of the explosion on the diesel-powered submarine, which paid a three-day visit to Portsmouth in February

One man standing outside the dockyard who declined to give his name said he heard a sound like a rocket or jet engine, then a blast. Another witness said the sky turned red after the explosion.

Nearly a dozen fire engines rushed to the dockyard to tackle the fire, which was extinguished in about two hours.

A navy official said it was unclear how many sailors were killed or injured.

The official said that when the blast occurred, some sailors of other nearby units jumped into the sea in panic, and some of them were injured.

Afterwards, the sub was left almost submerged at its berth in the naval dockyard.

Navy spokesman Narendra Vispute said the cause of the explosion was being investigated.

The 16-year-old Russian-made submarine had recently returned from Russia after undergoing an overhaul and upgrade, said Rahul Bedi, an analyst for the independent Jane’s Information Group.

India has 14 diesel-powered submarines, he said. Last year, India acquired a Russian Nerpa nuclear submarine for its navy on a 10-year lease from Russia.

India has also designed and built its own nuclear submarine; the navy activated the atomic reactor on that vessel on Saturday and could deploy it in the next two years.

The navy later confirmed that in 2010, one sailor died and two others were injured on the same submarine in an explosion in the vessel’s battery compartment. It came back into service about six months ago.