Fire erupts at Mumbai port as warship, merchant ship collide
Mumbai: Firefighters battled a major fire on the Indian warship Vindhyagiri yesterday after it collided with the merchant ship MV Nordlake on Sunday afternoon when the two vessels were passing through the channel at Mumbai port.
However, according to some media reports, the warship capsized and was lying on the seabed.
Earlier, the Vindhyagiri was tilting dangerously and the fear of a major oil spill loomed large though naval authorities and the Indian Coast Guard said there had been no spill at the moment.
The collision occurred at about 4.45pm on Sunday near the Sun Rock Lighthouse after which the warship was moved into the Naval dockyard and berthed alongside.
Everyone on board was evacuated safely, said defence authorities. Apart from naval personnel, the ship was also carrying families of naval officers for a day out at sea to witness a naval exercise and the collision occurred when it was entering the harbour and the container ship was exiting the port.
"When the collision happened, there was a hole in the boiler room and that is where the fire could have started," said Qaiser Khalid, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mumbai Port Zone.
Several firefighters were pressed into service when the fire broke out in the morning with tugs from the Naval Dockyard and Mumbai Port Trust deployed.
"The extent of damage to the naval warship is being ascertained," said Captain Manohar Nambiar, defence spokesman. The Director General of shipping has ordered an inquiry into the collision but questions are being raised as to how this could happen in broad daylight. The MV Nordlake had apparently steered suddenly to avoid another ship it was communicating with and that is how it hit the warship.
"An inquiry has been ordered to find the cause of the accident and a first information report has been filed at the Yellow Gate police station," said the defence spokesman.
The navy said it was making all efforts to salvage the Vindyagiri which has conducted successful operations in the past.
Nambiar said there was "ingress of water in some compartments resulting in the ship listing to one side. There was excessive smoke caused probably due to burning of lagging [insulation material] in the ship's compartment."
He also said the fire fighting continued until 1.30pm when it was brought under control. "The ship is listing to port and has touched bottom. There is no oil spill inside the harbour. However the Coast Guard in on standby."