Posted On Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 10:49:31 AM
The tireless efforts of the Navy’s finest divers resulted in the first breakthrough since INS Sindhurakshak sank at the Mumbai naval dock on Tuesday night, with the bodies of four trapped sailors being recovered.
On Friday morning, the rescue managers ditched the group-diving strategy and opted to send one diver at a time.
|Navy divers at the INS Sindhurakshak on Friday
Sources said this gave the sole diver more room to manoeuvre through the wrecked submarine and enabled them to clear the debris. Once the divers managed to remove some of the dislocated equipment from the second deck, they spotted the first body and it was removed.
Over the next three hours, divers managed to recover three more bodies. “Only one diver could work at a time to clear the path to gain access,” said a Navy statement. “After 36 hours of continuous effort, divers finally reached the second compartment behind the conning tower in the early hours of August 16.”
Sources said this was all the divers found in the second deck. The next step will be to try and cut through the second deck in the hope of finding the other trapped sailors. Sources said the main disadvantage over the last three days was the lack of any advanced equipment like underwater gas cutters and underwater torches.
INS Nireekshak, which is the closest dive support and submarine rescue vehicle to Mumbai, is also several thousand kilometres away from the coast and will take many days to reach the naval dock. “We have been severely hampered by the lack of equipment,” said an officer who is involved with the operation.
“Whatever has been achieved till now is solely due to the skill and extraordinary motivation of the divers.” The 40 divers who are part of the operation are from the survey ship INS Makar. “These are India’s finest divers,” said the officer.
“What they are doing here is beyond the call of duty. They are doing it for their fellow sailors.” While the divers have all along maintained that their first priority is to find the trapped sailors, larger salvage operation of INS Sindhurakshak will have to wait till INS Nireekshak or another rescue vessel reaches Mumbai.
Nireekshak, whose main purpose is to facilitate rescue or salvage operations from a submarine, is equipped with two deep submergence rescue vehicles that are capable of taking up to 12 men to a depth of 300 metres.
“The Navy is concentrating on reaching the interiors of the submarine to locate and extricate any remaining bodies,” said the Navy’s statement. “Salvage of the submarine would only be attempted thereafter for which many alternatives including deploying professional salvers are being considered.
But locating bodies is the top priority now.” The recovered bodies have been sent to JJ Hospital for post mortem and DNA profiling. Sources at the hospital said that the bodies were completely burnt, making it difficult to retrieve DNA samples.
“A post mortem will be done and DNA samples will be sent to the Kalina forensic laboratory,” said Dr TP Lahane, dean. “We will directly convey our finding to the navy officials.” Forensic experts said there was no skin or tissue remaining on the bodies and that the bones were also charred.
Doctors are trying to extract samples from dental enamel. Acknowledging that DNA identification may take time, the Navy also concluded that finding any surviving personnel within the submarine was unlikely. “The damage around the control room area indicates that the feasibility of locating bodies of personnel is very remote,” said the Navy’s statement. - with inputs from Jyoti Shelar