NEW DELHI (AP) — Rescuers were searching the cramped confines of an Indian navy submarine after it returned to port in Mumbai on Thursday, a day after an accident aboard the vessel left two sailors missing.
Seven sailors were overcome by smoke Wednesday during a routine training exercise in the submarine off Mumbai’s coast, but two others were unaccounted for.
Rescuers boarded the submarine after it reached port Thursday and were searching for the missing sailors, said Capt. D.K. Sharma, a navy spokesman. He said investigators had begun assessing the extent of damage to the vessel and the cause of the smoke.
The seven sailors who were overcome by smoke were in stable condition at a Mumbai hospital, Sharma said.
Navy chief Adm. D.K. Joshi resigned Wednesday to take responsibility for the accident and other incidents that have plagued the navy in recent years. The government accepted his resignation.
Last August, another of the navy’s Russian-made diesel-powered submarines, the INS Sindhurakshak, caught fire after an explosion and sank at its home port in Mumbai, killing all 18 sailors on board.
In December, the INS Talwar, a Russia-built stealth frigate, slammed into a trawler off India’s west coast, sinking the boat and tossing 27 fishermen into the sea. All of the fishermen were rescued.
Another navy frigate ran aground near the Mumbai naval base in January, damaging some equipment. And earlier this month, the INS Airavat, an amphibious warfare vessel, ran aground and its commanding officer was stripped of his duties, the Press Trust of India news agency said.
Sameer Patil, a defense analyst with the Mumbai-based think tank Indian Council on Global Relations, said delays in the acquisition of new submarines to replace an inadequate and aging fleet were taking its toll on the operational capabilities of the Indian navy.
“This is unfortunate because the Indian navy is spearheading India’s cooperative engagement with the Indian Ocean region, and policy makers need to pay close attention to our naval fleet,” he said.