An explosion and fire struck the submarine USS Bonefish off Florida, forcing the crew to abandon ship, the Navy said. Three of the 92-member crew were missing Monday and 23 were injured.

Crews from two frigates and a helicopter searched the Atlantic for the missing men after Sunday afternoon's fire, "looking and listening for any kind of sound or indication" of the men, said Lt. Cmdr. Bill Sonntag of the Norfolk-based Atlantic Fleet."We're doing everything we can to find them out there," he said.

The submarine was afloat alongside the frigate USS McCloy, officials said.

"No one has been back on board to assess the damage," Chief Petty Officer Terry Borton said Monday from Atlantic Fleet headquarters here. "At this time, there is no smoke coming from the vessel."

The Bonefish, one of the Navy's last diesel-electric submarines, surfaced Sunday afternoon 160 miles east of Cape Canaveral, Fla., said Cmdr. Fred Leeder, a fleet spokesman.

The fire was believed caused by an explosion in the 30-year-old submarine's battery compartment, Sonntag said. Because of fire and toxic fumes, the commanding officer ordered the vessel evacuated, he said.

Navy officials use the diesel-powered subs to simulate Soviet submarines because the Soviet Union still operates approximately 100 diesel-electric vessels. In all, the United States operates four diesel-electric boats.

Of the missing, "We don't know whether they are still aboard the submarine or whether they were in the water," said Capt. Brent Baker, another fleet spokesman.

The injured were transferred to the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy and taken to the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., according Borton.

The extent of the injuries were unknown, but "some of them had smoke inhalation," Baker said.

"They've been through a real trauma," he said.

Leeder said the Carr would attempt to tow the submarine either to Port Canaveral, Fla., or Charleston. There apparently was no serious problem in keeping it afloat late Sunday, Leeder said.