Eighteen Indian troops are feared dead after a submarine explosion at a dockyard in Mumbai, NDTV.com reports. The troops were aboard the diesel-powered INS Sindhurakshak, whose torpedoes and missiles reportedly went off in the disaster. India's defense minister has confirmed at least some deaths, the AP notes. It took two hours to put out the fire, and naval divers haven't yet been able to reach the wreckage. It's unclear what caused the explosion of the 16-year-old sub, which was reportedly commissioned from Russia in 1997 and refurbished by Russia last year—for a cost reported at $80 million.
The sub didn't have some modern safety gear, a defense expert tells AFP: "They don't have escape routes in the event of accidents, unlike some of the modern submarines." It's not the first time the sub has caught fire: There was another blaze in February 2010 that killed a sailor. The disaster comes at a bad time for India's armed forces: Its first domestically built aircraft carrier was announced days ago, and its first domestically made sub recently began sea trials, AFP notes. "India's submarine capability (is) depreciating fast. I think out of 14 diesel-electric subs, 12 are operational," says the expert.