About 18 hours after an Indian navy ship sank off the Visakhapatnam coast, an extensive search operation was underway to locate four people who are still missing, officials said on Friday.
A crack in the ship’s hull caused the accident on Thursday evening, where one sailor was killed, television reports said. The navy rescued 23 other personnel from the sea.
Navy spokesperson DK Sharma said admiral RK Dhowan will cut short a four-day visit to Seychelles to reach Visakhapatnam. The navy has deployed nine ships and a few aircraft, including helicopters to search for the missing personnel, he added.
The ship, a torpedo recovery vessel, sank while it was on a routine exercise to recover practice torpedoes fired by fleet ships. The navy has set up a Board of Inquiry to look into the cause of the mishap, the latest in a series of accidents that have plagued the navy in the past three years.
“The Board of Inquiry headed by a captain will go into all aspects of the accident,” a senior naval officer said.
Built by Goa Shipyard Limited in 1983, the ship has served the navy for the past 31 years. Sources said the average age of a ship is usually 20-25 years but there have been cases when older ships have continued to be in service for longer.
The navy released a statement Thursday night, saying there were 28 personnel on board at the time of the accident. The desired load of this vessel is a crew of about 13, but sources said operational requirements sometime require for more people to be on board.
Former navy chief DK Joshi had to quit in the wake of a series of accidents earlier this year, including a fire on INS Sindhuratna that left two sailors dead.
In October, another ship, INS Kora, suffered minor damage after it was scraped by a merchant vessel near Visakhapatnam.
The latest accident has raised eyebrows in the defence establishment since a naval ship is bound to be alert at all times when it is out at sea.