An explosion on an Indian submarine killed crew members, India's Defence Minister, Arackaparambil Kurien Antony said on Wednesday (August 14) giving no further details of what he described as one of the "greatest tragedies of recent times".

Eighteen sailors were trapped on board the INS Sindhurakshak, a conventionally powered submarine berthed at Mumbai after an intense fire and explosion.

The explosion inside the submarine is likely an accident, navy officials said. A large fireball could be seen over the navy dock where the diesel-electric submarine was berthed.

The accident comes in the same week as India launched a locally built aircraft carrier due for completion in 2017, and announced that the reactor on its first home-built nuclear submarine was now operational.

The navy has had far fewer accidents than the air force, dogged for years by crashes of Russian-made MiG-21 fighters.

However, the country's fleet of 14 submarines is in urgent need of modernisation, and the INS Sindhurakshak had returned just a few months ago from an upgrade at a Russian shipyard.

The vessel, which was fully operational with weapons on board, was half-submerged after the fire.

A team of navy divers was mobilised to search for survivors and 16 fire trucks were brought in to put out the blaze, local media said.

Presented by Adam Justice

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