Rescuers on Friday continued an urgent search for an Indonesian submarine that disappeared two days ago and which has less than a day of oxygen supply left for its 53 crew members.
The KRI Nanggala 402 disappeared after its last reported dive on Wednesday off the resort island of Bali, and concerns are that the submarine mount could have sunk in water too deep to reach or recover.
President Joko Widodo has asked all Indonesians to pray for the safe and sound return of the crew, while ordering all efforts to locate the affected submarine.
Two ships left a nearby port on Friday morning to participate in the search. More than 20 Navy ships, two submarines and five aircraft were mobilized for searches Thursday and similar mass search operations were expected on Friday.
Rescue ships from Singapore and Malaysia were due to arrive in the area from Saturday to Monday, and other nations have offered assistance.
“Our top priority is the safety of 53 crew members,” Widodo said in a televised speech on Thursday. “To the family of the crew members, I can understand their feelings and we are doing everything we can to save all the crew members on board.”
The sub was expected to run out of oxygen around 3 a.m. Saturday, said the navy’s chief of staff, Admiral Yudo Margono.
The search has focused on an oil slick near the location of the submarine’s last dive. But there is no conclusive evidence that the oil was from the submarine. Margono said the oil could have spilled through a crack in the submarine’s fuel tank or the crew could have released fuel and fluids to reduce the weight of the boat so it could emerge.
Margono said an unidentified object with high magnetism was located at a depth of 50 to 100 meters (165 to 330 feet) and officials expect it to be the submarine.
The Navy has also said it believes the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700 meters (2,000-2,300 feet), much deeper than its collapse depth, the depth at which the water pressure would be greater than what the helmet could bear. The vessel’s collapse depth was estimated at 200 meters (655 feet) by a South Korean company that overhauled the vessel in 2009-2012.
The cause of the disappearance is still uncertain. The navy has said that a power failure could have left the submarine unable to execute emergency procedures to resurface.
In addition to rescue ships sent by Singapore and Malaysia, offers of aid have arrived from Australia, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, India, Turkey and South Korea.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the United States is sending air assets to assist in the search. “We are deeply saddened by the news of the loss of the Indonesian submarine, and our thoughts are with the Indonesian sailors and their families,” Kirby said.
Submarine accidents are often disastrous.
In 2000, the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk suffered internal explosions and sank during maneuvers in the Barents Sea. Most of its 118 crew members died instantly, but 23 men fled to a rear compartment before later dying, mostly from suffocation. In November 2017, an Argentine submarine with 44 crew members disappeared in the South Atlantic, nearly a year before its remains were found at a depth of 800 meters (2,625 feet).
But in 2005, seven men aboard a Russian mini-submarine were rescued nearly three days after their vessel caught fishing nets and cables in the Pacific Ocean. They only had six hours of oxygen left before reaching the surface.
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 Defense Ministry said.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation with more than 17,000 islands, has faced increasing challenges to its maritime claims in recent years, including numerous incidents involving Chinese vessels near the Natuna Islands.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism