Missing Indonesian submarine ‘declared sunk’ as debris washes up
Indonesia’s navy says items have been found from a missing submarine, indicating the vessel with 53 crew members has sunk.
Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Yudo Margono said this evening that rescuers found several items including parts of a torpedo straightener, a grease bottle believed to be used to oil the periscope and prayer rugs from the submarine.
“With the authentic evidence we found believed to be from the submarine, we have now moved from the sub miss phase to sub sunk,” Adm. Margono said.
Indonesia earlier considered the submarine that disappeared on Thursday off Bali as just missing. But it now declares the submarine as officially sank with no hopes of finding any survivors.
Officials said oxygen supply for its 53 crew ran out early today.
Indonesia pressed ahead with a search for a navy submarine off Bali on Saturday, hours after the oxygen supply for 53 crew members aboard is believed to have been exhausted, with a US reconnaissance plane and other nations’ vessels set to join the hunt.
Two Australian warships, HMAS Ballarat and HMAS Sirius were both dispatched to help, after Indonesia accepted the Federal Government’s offer of assistance.
Both warships were diverted from separate deployments to the search zone off the coast of Bali.
The Defence Department said HMAS Ballarat was equipped with sonar capabilities and a MH-60R helicopter. It was expected to arrive at the search area yesterday.
HMAS Sirius is currently off the coast of Brunei and was expected to reach the search area early next week.
Fleet commander Rear Admiral Mark Hammond said the two Australian ships would help expand the search area.
“My thoughts are with the submariners of KRI Nanggala, their families and the Indonesian people,” Rear Admiral Hammond said.
“As always, we stand ready to assist our fellow mariners in the Indonesian Navy.”
The Indonesian submarine went missing on Wednesday with 53 sailors on board.
There’s concern the KRI Nanggala 402 may have sunk too deep to reach or recover in time. It lost contact after its last reported dive Wednesday off the resort island, and the navy chief has said it was expected to run out of oxygen early Saturday morning.
“We keep doing the search until we find it and whatever the result,” Indonesia military spokesperson Djawara Whimbo said.
An American reconnaissance plane, P-8 Poseidon, landed early today and is set to join the search, along with 20 Indonesian ships, the sonar-equipped Australian warship and four Indonesian aircraft.
Singaporean rescue ships are also expected later Saturday, while Malaysian rescue vessels were due to arrive tomorrow, bolstering the underwater hunt, Mr Whimbo said.
He said Indonesia’s hydrographic vessel was still unable to detect an unidentified object exhibiting high magnetism that was earlier detected located at a depth of 50 to 100 metres.
“The object is floating in the water, so maybe it is moving,” he said.
Indonesian military, navy and police chiefs are due to hold a news conference later Saturday.
There have been no signs of life from the submarine, but family members have held out hope that the massive search effort would find the vessel in time.
“The family is in a good condition and keeps praying,” said Ratih Wardhani, the sister of 49-year-old crewman Wisnu Subiyantoro. “We are optimistic that the Nanggala can be rescued with all the crew.”
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has ordered all-out efforts to locate the submarine and asked Indonesians to pray for the crew’s safe return.
The search focused on an area near the starting position of its last dive where an oil slick was found but there is no conclusive evidence so far the oil slick was from the sub.
Adm. Margono has said oil could have spilled from a crack in the submarine’s fuel tank or the crew could have released fuel and fluids to reduce the vessel’s weight so it could surface.
The navy however, believes the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700 metres, much deeper than its collapse depth of 200 metres, at which water pressure would be greater than the hull could withstand.
The cause of the disappearance is still uncertain. The navy has said an electrical failure could have left the submarine unable to execute emergency procedures to resurface.
The German-built diesel-powered KRI Nanggala 402 has been in service in Indonesia since 1981 and was carrying 49 crew members and three gunners as well as its commander, the Indonesian Defence Ministry said.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation with more than 17,000 islands, has faced growing challenges to its maritime claims in recent years, including numerous incidents involving Chinese vessels near the Natuna islands.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Marcus Hellyer said earlier this week that things were looking “very grim” for the submarine crew.
“There’s lots of things that can go wrong on submarines,” Dr Hellyer told nine.com.au.
“If a submarine has an accident at sea, it tends to be catastrophically bad.”
An oil slick had been spotted in the spot where the submarine dived from the surface, but aside from that, there is no trace of the KRI Nanggala-402.
And most submarines, including the KRI Nanggala-402, are not designed to survive more than a few hundred metres underwater.