11 July 2024

An Indonesian submarine that went missing off the coast of Bali has sunk, the navy said Saturday, dashing hopes of rescuing any of its 53 crew.

The navy’s chief said a search party had recovered fragments from the KRI Nanggala 402 including items from inside the vessel, whose oxygen reserves were already believed to have run out.

Warships, planes and hundreds of military personnel have been searching for the stricken vessel. Authorities had said the German-built craft was equipped with enough oxygen for only three days after losing power.

That deadline passed early Saturday.

Submarine KRI Nanggala-402. (Photo by EBU)

“We have raised the status from submiss to subsunk,” navy chief Yudo Margono told reporters, adding that the retrieved items could not have come from another vessel.

“(The items) would not have come outside the submarine if there was no external pressure or without damage to its torpedo launcher.”

Navy officials displayed several items including a piece of its torpedo system and a bottle of grease used to lubricate a submarine’s periscope.

They also found a prayer mat commonly used by Muslims. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Islamic nation.

Margono said the hunt for the submarine and sailors would continue, but warned that deep waters made the recovery effort very risky and difficult.

“We don’t know about the victims’ condition because we haven’t found any of them. So we can’t speculate,” he said in response to questions about the possibility of survivors.

“But with the (discovery) of these items, you can make your own conclusion.”

Sudden disappearance

The submarine, one of five in Indonesia’s fleet, disappeared early Wednesday during live torpedo training exercises off the Indonesian holiday island.

An oil spill spotted where the submarine was thought to have submerged pointed to possible fuel-tank damage, fanning fears of a deadly disaster.

There were concerns that the submarine could have been crushed by water pressure if it sank to depths topping 700 metres, well below what it was built to withstand

The vessel was scheduled to conduct the training exercises when it asked for permission to dive. It lost contact shortly after.

Authorities have not offered possible explanations for the submarine’s sudden disappearance or commented on questions about whether the decades-old vessel was overloaded.

The military has said the submarine, delivered to Indonesia in 1981, was seaworthy.

by Sonny Tumbelaka