Indian Navy divers have finally managed to open a second access into the submarine INS Sindhurakshak, three days after it sank amid explosions at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai.
''The divers have gained a second access to the submarine late last night when they successfully prised open the rear escape hatch which was submerged below and jammed due to high temperature,'' a release from the Navy said today.
The divers are also attempting to open the jammed forward escape hatch for gaining entry to the front portion of the submarine, it said.
Of the 18 crew members who went down with their ship, only five bodies have been recovered so far. Their autopsy, completed at Mumbai's J J Hospital today, shows death due to severe burns and drowning.
The bodies were charred beyond recognition. DNA samples and dental marks have been taken to ascertain their identity, and these will be sent for forensic analysis.
The chances of any survivors were slim from the start, and are getting slimmer by the hour. The Navy has admitted that finding any survivors is unlikely as the explosion and very high temperatures have incarcerated the bodies.
''Efforts to trace and retrieve the bodies of the other 13 sailors are under way on a war footing and we are hopeful of further recoveries by late this evening,'' a Navy official said.
President Pranab Mukherjee, who is also the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, today expressed grief over the loss of lives in the submarine disaster.
In his message to Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi, he said, "I am saddened to learn about the loss of lives of Indian Navy personnel in the tragic incident … I am sure that the defence ministry and the Maharashtra government are providing all possible help to the bereaved families who have lost their near and dear ones.
''I pray to the Almighty to give strength and courage to the families to bear this irreparable loss."
On Friday, Russia, which built the Sindhurakshak, offered help in investigating the cause of the accident, even while asserting that the incident would not weaken Indo-Russian defence cooperation.