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Indonesia navy's submarine sunk, 53 sailors presumed dead

April 25, 2021 | 08:01

On Saturday, Indonesia navy declared that its missing submarine had sunk, which also ended the hope of finding 53 crew members.

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Indonesia navy hospital ship KRI Dr. Soeharso, right, sails to join the search for submarine KRI Nanggala that went missing while participating in a training exercise on Wednesday, off Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Indonesian submarine The KRI Nanggala 402 went missing after its last reported dive Wednesday off the resort island, and concern is mounting it may have sunk too deep to reach or recover in time. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Indonesia navy hospital ship KRI Dr. Soeharso, right, sails to join the search for submarine KRI Nanggala that went missing while participating in a training exercise on Wednesday, off Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Indonesian submarine The KRI Nanggala 402 went missing after its last reported dive Wednesday off the resort island, and concern is mounting it may have sunk too deep to reach or recover in time. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said the presence of an oil slick as well as debris near the site where the submarine last dove Wednesday off the island of Bali were clear proof the KRI Nanggala 402 had sunk. Indonesian officials earlier considered the vessel to be only missing, but said the submarine’s oxygen supply would have run out early Saturday, according to Associated Press.

Navy Chief Yudo Margono told a press conference in Bali, “If it’s an explosion, it will be in pieces. The cracks happened gradually in some parts when it went down from 300 meters to 400 meters to 500 meters. ... If there was an explosion, it would be heard by the sonar.”

The navy previously said it believes the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700 meters (2,000-2,300 feet), much deeper than its collapse depth of 200 meters (655 feet), at which point water pressure would be greater than the hull could withstand.

In this aerial photo taken from a maritime patrol aircraft of 800 Air Squadron of the 2nd Air Wing of Naval Aviation Center (PUSPENERBAL), 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, in the waters off Bali Island, Indonesia, Thursday, April 22, 2021. Indonesia's navy ships on Thursday were intensely searching for the submarine that likely fell too deep to retrieve, making survival chances for all the crew on board slim. Authorities said oxygen in the submarine would run out by early Saturday. (AP Photo/Eric Ireng)
In this aerial photo taken from a maritime patrol aircraft of 800 Air Squadron of the 2nd Air Wing of Naval Aviation Center (PUSPENERBAL), 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, in the waters off Bali Island, Indonesia, Thursday, April 22, 2021. Indonesia's navy ships on Thursday were intensely searching for the submarine that likely fell too deep to retrieve, making survival chances for all the crew on board slim. Authorities said oxygen in the submarine would run out by early Saturday. (AP Photo/Eric Ireng)

“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 the press conference, in which the found items were displayed.

The German-built KRI Nanggala 402 had been in service in the Indonesian navy since the early 1980s and the navy says it was certified as seaworthy. In 2012, the sub was refitted in South Korea.

India, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, the U.S. and other countries sent ships and aircraft to assist with what many had hoped would be a rescue mission.

Some of those warships are expected to help pinpoint the exact location of the Nanggala using technology to detect metal or magnetic objects in the sea, according to CNN.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a tweet that he "was incredibly saddened to hear of the tragic loss of the 53 Indonesian sailors on board" and that his thoughts and prayers were with "the families of those sailors, and everyone in the Indonesian military as they cope with this tragedy."

“The cause of the disappearance is still uncertain”

A navy helicopter with Indonesian Military chief Hadi Tjahjanto onboard, takes off during a search mission for The Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Nanggala at Ngurah Rai Military Air Base in Bali, Indonesia on Saturday, April 24, 2021. The oxygen supply for the crew members of the Indonesian submarine missing in waters off Bali is believed to have run out early Saturday with no sign of the vessel while the search resumed, bolstered by the arrival of a sonar-equipped Australian warship. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
A navy helicopter with Indonesian Military chief Hadi Tjahjanto onboard, takes off during a search mission for The Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Nanggala at Ngurah Rai Military Air Base in Bali, Indonesia on Saturday, April 24, 2021. The oxygen supply for the crew members of the Indonesian submarine missing in waters off Bali is believed to have run out early Saturday with no sign of the vessel while the search resumed, bolstered by the arrival of a sonar-equipped Australian warship. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

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

Indonesian President Joko Widodo 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.

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.

Indonesian navy ship Oswad Siahaan sails to join the search for submarine KRI Nanggala that went missing while participating in a training exercise, off Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia, Saturday, April 24, 2021. The oxygen supply for the 53 crew members of the Indonesian submarine missing in waters off Bali is believed to have run out early Saturday with no sign of the vessel while the search resumed, bolstered by the arrival of a sonar-equipped Australian warship. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Indonesian navy ship Oswad Siahaan sails to join the search for submarine KRI Nanggala that went missing while participating in a training exercise, off Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia, Saturday, April 24, 2021. The oxygen supply for the 53 crew members of the Indonesian submarine missing in waters off Bali is believed to have run out early Saturday with no sign of the vessel while the search resumed, bolstered by the arrival of a sonar-equipped Australian warship. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Indonesian navy’s retired rear admiral Frans Wuwung, who previously headed the submarine’s machinery room, said he believed a blackout was likely on the vessel.

“I hope my brothers will be found safe and well because they are professionals and they know what they are doing. But the ship can withstand a maximum depth of 300 metres, maybe 500. Any more than that and I don’t dare comment. May God bless them. I am so sorry,” he told Al Jazeera.

Frank Owen of the Submarine Institute of Australia told Al Jazeera that a flood was likely the reason for the sinking of the ship.

“Almost exclusively what causes a submarine to sink is taking on more water, then what the buoyancy can counteract,” he said via Skype from Canberra, Australia.

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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