Indian Navy officials carry the coffin of Lt. Cmdr. Manoranjan Kumar on March 1. Kumar was killed in a Feb. 27 fire on board the submarine INS Sindhuratna. (AFP)
One Indian worker was killed in an accident during construction of a nuclear submarine, a defense statement said Sunday, the latest in a string of deadly mishaps to hit the navy.
Two other workers were injured in the incident late Saturday afternoon at a ship building center in the southeast coastal city of Visakhapatnam, the Defence Research and Development Organisation statement said.
An inquiry was under way into the incident, which occurred when one of the hatches flew off and hit the contract workers during pressure testing of a part of the submarine, according to local media reports.
“One person, a contractual worker lost his life in the accident. Two others were injured and are under treatment,” the organization, which is charge of the construction project, said in the statement.
The accident came just one day after a toxic gas leak on board the yet-to-be commissioned INS Kolkata naval ship killed an officer and injured two others during trials in Mumbai on Friday.
The navy’s chief resigned last month over another accident, a fire on board a submarine that killed two officers, during exercises off the Mumbai coast.
The chief took responsibility for the accident, which occurred after the deadliest incident in years, when the INS Sindhurakshak burst into flames in Mumbai harbor last August, killing 18 sailors and sinking the vessel.
Various other naval accidents reported in recent months included a submarine running aground in Mumbai’s harbor, fires on a minesweeping vessel and an aircraft carrier, and a collision between a frigate and a fishing boat.
The statement on the latest accident said “the submarines are safe and the accident does not adversely affect the project,” comments backed by the engineering company that employed the workers.
“This is a test that was being conducted on a tank, not the real pressure hull (of the submarine) itself,” said M.V. Kotwal from Larsen and Toubro told Times Now television station.
India is building a number of Arihant-class nuclear-powered submarines, including the one on which the latest accident occurred, in an attempt to reduce its reliance on foreign suppliers.
Defense experts say the navy has an ageing fleet and has struggled in the past with delays in the acquisition of new submarines and poor servicing.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, tipped to win upcoming elections, stepped up its calls for the defense minister to resign over the accidents.
“Nobody from the government is taking any responsibility and the whole country is concerned,” said BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain.
The 6,000-ton INS Arihant (Destroyer of Enemies) project was unveiled in 2009 to construct five such vessels which would be armed with nuclear-tipped missiles and torpedoes.
According to reports, the first of the vessels is likely to be launched for sea trials within a couple of months and the others are expected to be completed this year.