Could the warship INS Vindhyagiri been saved? The Fire Brigade and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said it was possible had they been called in early.
The collision of the naval ship with a merchant vessel MV Nord Lake has exposed chinks in the city’s disaster response, as both the fire brigade and NDRF have complained that Naval authorities called them in too late. Both said that if called in earlier, there might have been a fair chance of the ship being saved.
A fire officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “We were asked to be there only at 4 am, more than 12 hours after the incident occurred. Had we been called in earlier, our combined fire fighting efforts along with their own operations could have saved the ship. Naval authorities called us when the damage had already been done. The Navy’s reluctance to ask for assistance is surprising.”
Another fire officer, who was present at the spot, said, “When the first of our officers reached the spot around 4am, it was clear that the damage was beyond repair. Also, initially, defence authorities restricted the number of fire engines we could bring in. We respect their fire fighting capabilities, but we are professionals too.”
The NDRF, meanwhile, reached the Naval dockyard, only after the ship had capsized. “We were informed by naval authorities as late as 7.30 am on Monday, even though the incident had occurred on Sunday afternoon. We left our Talegaon base immediately and reached the spot only at 1.30-2pm, by which time the ship had sunk.”
An NDRF officer agreed that the intimation came too late. “We sent around 70 well-equipped officers to the spot to assist Naval authorities. Unfortunately, this incident will remain just a lesson for all of us for the next time.”
Defence authorities, meanwhile, defended their decision. “In such cases, you first utilise your own resources and only when you think they are inadequate do you call for extra assistance. Today was no different and we took the same stand,” said Captain Manohar Nambiar, chief public relations officer (defence).
Meanwhile, even as rumours of an oil spill did the rounds, environment secretary Valsa Nair Singh said that the spill was very minor and posed no potential threat to the coast.
“It is a matter that has been sorted out and is not a concern anymore,” Nair-Singh said.