Almost two days after the explosion on INS Sindhurakshak at the naval dockyard here, Navy divers are yet to ascertain the status of 18 crew members who were on board the submarine.

“The trapped personnel have not yet been sighted… The diving efforts are hampered by poor visibility in the submarine which is filled with water, extremely restricted spaces and displacement of most equipment from their original location,” said a statement issued by the Navy on Thursday.

After several blasts, the submarine caught fire at midnight on Wednesday. Though the fire was doused in the next three hours, the vessel sank. “While we can hope for the best, we have to be prepared for the worst,” the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral D.K. Joshi, said at a press conference here on Wednesday.

Navy divers entered the submarine on Wednesday evening and efforts are still on to ascertain the status of those trapped. Oil leakage and turbid water have reduced the visibility to almost zero, which is delaying the rescue operation. “The heat of the explosion has melted parts of the internal hull, deforming the hatches and preventing access to compartments,” said the statement.

Diving and salvage operations were continuing round the clock, it said.

The Navy is using heavy-duty pumps to flush water out of the submarine. A large quantum of seawater entered the submarine because of the explosion. The submarine will become lighter and will come up, once the water is pumped out.

Families of the 18 crew members (three officers and 15 sailors) have reached Mumbai. They have been put up in the naval dockyard.

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