Two naval officers are 'unaccounted for' after a fire onboard an Indian naval Kilo class submarine. The fire and smoke broke out in the third compartment of the INS Sindhuratna, a submarine undergoing trials off Mumbai this morning.
The fire in the forward battery compartment triggered off the release of the submarine's 'Lokh' station that discharges Freon gas. Five crewmen who were heli-lifted to safety after inhaling the poisonous gas. Freon is used in submarine fire-fighting systems because it rapidly displaces oxygen in confined spaces and kills fire. It can, however, also prove lethal to crewmen who are not wearing emergency breathing apparatus. The trials were being supervised by the western fleet's Commodore Submarines or Comcos (west).
Meanwhile, reports said seven sailors were also injured in the incident.
The Sindhuratna is one of the navy's fleet of nine Kilo class submarines. A tenth submarine, the INS Sindhurakshak exploded and sank in the naval dockyard on August 14, 2013 killing 18 crewmen on board. The Sindhuratna was moored nearby and suffered minor fire damage.
Wednesday's incident was similar to one on November 8, 2008 when the accidental discharge of Freon gas on an Akula class nuclear-powered attack submarine killed 20 Russian personnel and injured 41 others. The submarine, the Nerpa, was leased to India in 2012 as the INS Chakra.
Indian Navy statement on the tragedy
Indian Naval Submarine Sindhuratna was at sea off Mumbai for routine training and workup (inspection).
While at sea in the early hours of today, smoke was reported in the sailors' accommodation, in compartment number three, by the submarine. Smoke was brought under control by the submarine's crew. In the process of controlling the smoke / fire, seven crew members inhaled smoke and felt uneasy. The Headquarters, Western Naval Command (HQ WNC) rushed a Seaking Helicopter with medical team.
The seven crew members were transferred to Naval Hospital Asvini. All specialist Medical Officers attended and reported that the crew are safe. Naval ships were despatched by HQ WNC and are in the area to provide assistance to the submarine. Two personnel have not yet been located and all efforts are in progress to locate them. All other crew of the submarine are on board and safe. Submarine is also safe and this does not have any weapons on board.
The submarine will return to harbour shortly. An inquiry has been ordered to establish the cause of the incident.
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