Salvage effort under way as sunken Indonesian submarine found

All 53 crew were killed when the 'KRI Nanggala 402' sank in deep waters off Bali

A missing Indonesian submarine has been found broken apart on the sea floor off Bali, the military said on Sunday.

It confirmed that all 53 sailors on board were dead.

“We received underwater pictures that are confirmed as the parts of the submarine, including its rear vertical rudder, anchors, outer pressure body, embossed dive rudder and other ship parts,” military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters in Bali.

“With this authentic evidence, we can declare that KRI Nanggala 402 has sunk and all the crew members are dead,” he said.

Navy Chief of Staff Yudo Margono said the KRI Nanggala 402 was broken into three pieces.

The authorities said they used a submarine rescue vehicle supplied by Singapore to get a visual confirmation.

They received signals early on Sunday morning, from the location at a depth of more than 800 metres.

The military said more debris from the vessel was discovered on Sunday, including an anchor and safety suits worn by crew members.

On Saturday, the navy said items from inside the vessel had been retrieved.

The submarine disappeared on April 21 during live torpedo training exercises off Bali, triggering a frantic search by warships, aircraft and hundreds of military personnel.

The family of a sailor killed when the submarine sank  visit a naval base in Banyuwangi, East Java Province Indonesia. Reuters
The family of a sailor killed when the 'KRI Nanggala 402' sank visit a naval base in Banyuwangi, East Java Province, Indonesia. Reuters

President Joko Widodo described the submarine's crew as Indonesia's "best patriots".

"All Indonesians convey their deep sadness over this incident, especially to the families of the submarine crew," he said.

Authorities have not given an official explanation for the accident, but said that the submarine may have suffered a power blackout that left its crew unable to resurface.

Wisnu Wardhana, a maritime expert at Indonesia's Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology, said the effects of pressure would have been catastrophic.

"Submarine hulls are pressurised... but when they're breached then water would come flooding inside. Can you imagine if water with that kind of pressure hits people?"

Retired French Admiral Jean-Louis Vichot earlier told AFP that a submarine's steel shell would break "like a folding accordion" when it hits depths way beyond its limits.

On Sunday, the search team focused on pinpointing the vessel's exact location.

The authorities have warned that any salvage operation would be risky and difficult in the deep waters.

Singapore's MV Swift Rescue, a submarine rescue vessel, had arrived to aid in the recovery effort, the navy said on Sunday.

Neighbouring Malaysia, the US, India and Australia, were among the nations helping in the search.

A US Navy reconnaisance aircraft lands after taking part in the search operation for the missing submarine. EPA
A US Navy reconnaissance aircraft lands after taking part in the search operation for the missing submarine. EPA

Search vessels, reconnaissance aircraft and submarine rescue ships scoured a zone of about 34 square kilometres.

So far, authorities have not commented on questions about whether the decades-old vessel was overloaded, but they have said that the German-built submarine, delivered to Indonesia in 1981, was seaworthy.

The model has been used by more than a dozen navies around the world.

But investigators would look at the Indonesian submarine's age as a potential factor, analysts said.

The disaster was among a string of fatal submarine accidents over the past few decades.

Among the worst was the sinking in 2000 of the Kursk, the pride of Russia's Northern Fleet.

That submarine was on manoeuvres in the Barents Sea when it sank with the loss of all 118 sailors aboard. An inquiry found a torpedo had exploded, detonating all the others.

Most of its crew died instantly but some survived for several days before suffocating.

Updated: April 25, 2021 09:35 PM

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