The Indonesian Navy is attempting to find a missing submarine, with 53 sailors on board.
The 44-year-old submarine, KRI Nanggala-402, was conducting a torpedo drill in waters north of the island of Bali but failed to relay the results as expected, a navy spokesman said.
An aerial search found an oil spill near the submarine’s dive location and two navy vessels with sonar capability have been deployed to assist in the search, the Defense Ministry said.
The oil spill is “highly suspected” to have come from the vessel, Indonesian Navy spokesman First Adm. Julius Widjojono said.
“That oil spill location is the last time we had contact with the submarine,” he said.
The oil spill found on the surface could also indicate that there was damage to its fuel tank or could also be a signal from the crew, the navy said.
A ministry statement said requests for assistance had been sent and Australia, Singapore and India had responded.
Singapore has a submarine rescue pact with Indonesia and had sent a rescue vessel.
“We are still searching in the waters of Bali, 60 miles (96 km) from Bali, (for) 53 people,” military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said.
“It is possible that during static diving, a blackout occurred so control was lost and emergency procedures cannot be carried out and the ship falls to a depth of 600-700 metres,” the Indonesian Navy said in a statement.
Widjojono said the submarine has the capability to dive up to 500 meters below sea level, but authorities estimate it went 100-200 meters below that depth.
He said authorities are holding out hope the crew are safe, but acknowledged the situation could be fatal at that depth.
“Let’s pray for them so they can survive,” he told local media.
Indonesia is deploying four warships to search for the submarine, including a Rigel warship equipped with sophisticated sonar that can precisely detect the vessel’s position, Widjojono said. That ship is currently en route from Jakarta.
Two ships equipped with side-scan sonar, a tool used for mapping the seafloor, began searching the area.
The International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO), an organization that facilitates an international response for distressed submarines, is also providing assistance, the ministry said.
The 1,395-tonne KRI Nanggala-402 was built in Germany in 1977, according to the defense ministry, and joined the Indonesian fleet in 1981. It underwent a two-year refit in South Korea that was completed in 2012.
Indonesia previously had a fleet of 12 submarines, although it now only operates five, two of which, including the KRI Nanggala-402, are German-built.
The other three are more modern submarines from South Korea. There are also plans to buy more submarines from South Korea by 2024, although these are needed urgently given Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic nation.
RSN’s MV Swift Rescue – our submarine rescue vessel – was dispatched expeditiously yesterday afternoon, as fast as she could get ready, after our Navy Chief received a request for assistance from his @_TNIAL_ counterpart. A medical team was also added… https://t.co/SD2jhjROMH pic.twitter.com/sXPSnfvDai
— Ng Eng Hen (@Ng_Eng_Hen) April 22, 2021
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