Indonesia navy finds items from lost submarine, indicating it sank

Published April 24, 2021
In this aerial photo taken from a maritime patrol aircraft, the Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Alugoro sails during a search for KRI Nanggala, another submarine that went missing while participating in a training exercise on Wednesday. — AP
In this aerial photo taken from a maritime patrol aircraft, the Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Alugoro sails during a search for KRI Nanggala, another submarine that went missing while participating in a training exercise on Wednesday. — AP

Indonesia’s navy on Saturday said items were found from a missing submarine, indicating the vessel with 53 crew members had sunk and there was no hope of finding survivors.

Navy Chief Yudo Margono said rescuers found several items from the KRI Nanggala 402, which disappeared after its last reported dive on Wednesday off the resort island of Bali, including parts of a torpedo straightener, a grease bottle believed to be used to oil the periscope and prayer rugs.

“With the authentic evidence we found believed to be from the submarine, we have now moved from the ‘sub miss’ phase to ‘sub sunk,’” Margono said at a press conference in Bali where the found items were displayed.

Officials previously said the submarine’s oxygen supply would have run out early on Saturday. Indonesia had considered the submarine as just missing.

An Indonesian navy patrol ship sails to join the search for submarine KRI Nanggala. — AP
An Indonesian navy patrol ship sails to join the search for submarine KRI Nanggala. — AP

An American reconnaissance plane, a P-8 Poseidon, landed early on Saturday and was set to join the search, along with 20 Indonesian ships, a sonar-equipped Australian warship and four Indonesian aircraft.

Singaporean rescue ships were also expected later on Saturday, while Malaysian rescue vessels were due to arrive on Sunday, bolstering the underwater hunt, Indonesia military spokesperson Djawara Whimbo said earlier. He had 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 meters (165 to 330 feet).

There had been no signs of life from the submarine, but family members 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 had 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 was no conclusive evidence so far the oil slick was from the sub.

Margono, the navy chief, had 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 meters, much deeper than its collapse depth of 200 meters, 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.

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