NEW DELHI — All 18 sailors aboard an Indian submarine hit Wednesday by twin explosions and an intense fire are feared dead, a naval official said. The submarine had also been damaged in a deadly explosion in 2010 and only recently returned to service.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because divers had yet to recover any bodies, said the navy believed there was no way anyone could have survived the intensity of the blasts and fire, which occurred when the diesel-powered submarine was docked at a Mumbai navy base.
Officials had earlier said that there had been no contact with the sailors since the explosions. They said navy divers had opened one of its hatches but had not yet been able to enter the submarine because it was dark and full of muddy water.
‘‘We hope for the best but we have to prepare for the worst,’’ Admiral D.K. Joshi, the navy chief, told reporters earlier in Mumbai.
The explosions in the submarine’s torpedo compartment sent a huge fireball into the air and sent nearby sailors jumping into the sea in panic. It is shaping up to be another embarrassment for India’s military, which has been hit with a corruption scandal as it races to modernize its forces.
The 16-year-old Russian-made submarine, INS Sindhurakshak, was hit by an explosion in 2010 that killed one sailor and injured two others. The navy said that accident was caused by a faulty battery valve that leaked hydrogen, causing an explosion in the vessel’s battery compartment.
The sub recently returned from Russia after a 2½-year refit, overhaul, and upgrade, said Rahul Bedi, an analyst for the independent Jane’s Information Group.