India's prime minister says the 18 sailors on board a navy submarine are feared to have lost their lives in an explosion and fire.
During comments marking India's independence day in New Delhi Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India paid homage to the "brave hearts" lost in Wednesday's incident. The blast took place on a conventionally powered submarine at a Mumbai shipyard and left the sub half submerged. Sailors on nearby vessels were sent to the hospital with burns.
Divers managed to open the hatch of the vessel late Wednesday, but so far have not reached the sailors who were on board. Navy chief Admiral D.K. Joshi told reporters earlier Wednesday that "we hope for the best, but we have to prepare for the worst."
The accident is one of the worst for the Indian navy since the sinking of a frigate during its war with Pakistan in 1971.
This is the second fire aboard the Russian-made INS Sindhurakshak. The first occurred in 2010 while the submarine was docked in the southern port of Visakhapatnam. One sailor died in that incident.
The Sindhurakshak fire comes just days after India announced the reactor on its first home-built nuclear submarine is now operational.
India is celebrating the anniversary of its 1947 independence from Britain. Prime Minister Singh also used the occasion at India's Red Fort monument Thursday to warn historic rival Pakistan that for relations to improve, Pakistan must abstain from "any anti-India activity."
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.