BALI (REUTERS, AFP, XINHUA) : A missing Indonesian submarine has been found, broken into at least three parts, deep in the Bali Sea, army and navy officials said on Sunday (April 25), as the president sent condolences to relatives of the 53 crew members.
Rescuers found new objects, including a life vest, that they believe belonged to those aboard the 44-year old KRI Nanggala-402, which lost contact on Wednesday as it prepared to conduct a torpedo drill.
“Based on the evidence, it can be stated that the KRI Nanggala has sunk and all of its crew have died,” military chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters.
“With deep sorrow… I declare that all 53 personnel on board have died. They were the best soldiers… and may the God Almighty reward their good deeds and dedication.”
Navy chief of staff Yudo Margono said the crew were not to be blamed for the accident.
“The KRI Nanggala is divided into three parts, the hull of the ship, the stern of the ship, and the main parts are all separated, with the main part found cracked,” he said.
President Joko Widodo earlier confirmed the discovery in the Bali Sea and sent the families of the victims his condolences.
“All of us Indonesians express our deep sorrow over this tragedy, especially to the families of the submarine crew.”
Search teams said on Saturday they had found objects including prayer mat fragments and a bottle of periscope lubricant near the submarine’s last known location, leading the navy to believe the vessel had cracked.
Mr Margono said on Saturday that a sonar scan had detected a submarine-like object at 850m, beyond the Nanggala’s diving range.
More than a dozen helicopters and ships searched the area where contact was lost, with Singapore, Malaysia, India, Australia and the United States providing assistance.
Mr Tjahjanto said the KRI Rigel, Indonesia’s hydrographic survey vessel, had carried out a “more accurate scan” of the spot where the submarine was last detected, and that Singapore’s underwater submarine rescue vessel, the MV Swift Rescue, captured visual confirmation of the wreckage at a depth of 830m.
He added that more parts from the vessel were discovered on Sunday, including an anchor and safety suits worn by crew members.
The Indonesian Navy has said that a possible power blackout during the static dive could have caused the submarine to lose control and rendered it unable to perform emergency procedures.
Singapore’s Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean posted his condolences in a Facebook message on Sunday evening.
“Our deepest condolences on the loss of the Indonesian submarine KRI Naggala and her crew. As a fellow naval offficer, we are saddened that our rescue team was not able to save the sailors,” Mr Teo wrote.
“Working closely with the TNI-AL, our Singapore Navy’s Remotely Operated Vehicle was able to visually identify and confirm the condition of the vessel on the sea floor and recover a few critical items from the seabed at a depth of more than 800m. We hope that this will help the families find some closure and certainty on the fate of their loved ones. We pray for the souls of all those who were lost and for their families.”
The incident is believed to be the first major submarine disaster for Indonesia, which has been upgrading its ageing military equipment.
South-east Asia’s most-populous country has sought to revamp its military capability, yet some equipment is still old and there have been fatal accidents in recent years.
Residents of the East Java town of Banyuwangi, which hosts the naval base from where search-and-rescue operations are being conducted, joined nationwide calls to accelerate the modernisation of Indonesia’s defence forces.
“This can be a learning point for the government to advance its military technology and be careful in how it uses its (existing) technology because its people’s lives are at stake,” said 29-year old resident Hein Ferdy Sentoso.
Indonesia had five submarines before the latest accident: Two German-built Type 209s including Nanggala and three newer South Korean vessels.
THE STRAITS TIMES