India Sub Crew Burned Beyond Recognition; 3 Bodies Found

India’s navy said disfiguring burns had left the bodies of three sailors recovered from a sunken submarine impossible to identify, suggesting there was no chance of finding survivors aboard the gutted vessel.

Boiling water inside the submarine caused by explosions and a fire early on Aug. 14 in a Mumbai dockyard had initially prevented divers from entering the boat, the navy said in a statement. The high temperatures melted steel within the submarine and would likely have incinerated some of the crew, the navy said in a statement today.

The state of the “bodies and conditions within the submarine leads to a firm conclusion that finding any surviving personnel is unlikely,” according to the statement.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said yesterday the probable death of the sailors was “all the more painful” given the nation’s recent strides in modernizing its military. This is the worst submarine accident in the country’s history and the biggest setback for the navy since the loss of a warship in 1971 during a conflict with Pakistan.

Divers have had to overcome jammed doors and hatches, twisted ladders and waters so murky that they were working in total darkness, even with high-powered underwater lamps. Rescue teams were only able to gain access to the submarine’s second compartment this morning, where the three bodies were found, the navy said in the statement.

A nearby naval hospital will carry out DNA tests to attempt to identify the three sailors recovered today. The diving teams will continue to search the submarine until all the bodies are located or they are sure no more will be found.

The Sindhurakshak, whose name means “protector of the ocean,” is a Russian-built Kilo class submarine that returned to Mumbai earlier this year after a $133 million refit at a shipyard in Russia, according to India’s defense ministry.

There have been several accidents aboard Russian-made submarines in the past 15 years. Twenty Russians died on a vessel when a faulty firefighting system was accidentally activated during trials in the Sea of Japan in 2008. The Kursk sank in August 2000 after an onboard explosion in the Barents Sea, killing all 118 on board.

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