The government on Friday said the priority was to lift submarine INS Sindhurakshak slightly above water to gain access to the bodies still trapped in it.

Sources in the Defence Ministry said the Navy was exploring all options to undertake this kind of exercise over the next two days. “Looking at humanitarian angle, it will be a priority to extricate all the 18 bodies from the submarine. Navy officials and experts are looking at all possibilities to do this,” they said.

So far the Navy had not sought any help from foreign companies who specialised in salvage operations, the sources said but did not rule out the possibility of exercising the option. As the submarine is filled with water and twisted metal, it was difficult to gain access to the compartments.

The 16-year-old Russia-made INS Sindhurakshak was fitted with torpedoes and Klub missiles at the time of the accident. The Navy which has so far ruled out sabotage and a recent recharging of the submarine's batteries as the cause behind the explosion, said anything with certainty could be said only after the enquiry.

The Navy operates 14 other submarine units, including a nuclear-powered submarine. In a bid to further tighten safety of its vessels, the Navy has again issued guidelines for safety procedures to crew.

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