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Missing submarine found, all 53 crew dead: Indonesia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Indonesian Navy patrol boat KRI Raden Eddy Martadinata (331) heads to the site where missing Nanggala 402 submarine from the naval base has been found, in Banyuwangi, East Java province on April 25, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

All 53 crew aboard an Indonesian submarine that disappeared last week were killed, the military said Sunday as it confirmed the vessel had been found in pieces on the seafloor.

Authorities said that they picked up signals early Sunday from a location more than 800 meters (2,600 feet) deep -- far below what the KRI Nanggala 402's steel hull was built to withstand.

They had used an underwater submarine rescue vehicle supplied by neighboring Singapore to get visual confirmation of the stricken vessel.

"It was broken into three pieces," said Navy Chief of Staff Yudo Margono.

More parts from the doomed submarine were also retrieved, including an anchor and fluorescent orange safety suits for emergencies, authorities said.

The discovery comes a day after the navy had first confirmed the retrieval of fragments from the submarine and declared that it had sunk, effectively ending any chance of finding survivors.

Among the earlier items recovered were a piece of the torpedo system and a bottle of grease used to lubricate periscopes.

They also found a prayer mat commonly used in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Warships, planes and hundreds of military personnel had led a frantic search for the submarine since it disappeared this week during training exercises, hoping for a miracle rescue before its known oxygen reserves ran out.

But on Sunday, Indonesian military head Hadi Tjahjanto said there was no chance of finding any of the crew alive.

"With deep sadness, I can say that all 53 personnel onboard have passed," he told reporters.

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

They discounted an explosion, however, saying Saturday that the evidence suggested the submarine came apart as it was crushed by massive water pressure in the vast depths.

This handout photo taken on April 25, 2021 and released by the Indonesia Military shows parts of the missing submarine which has been found cracked apart on the seafloor in waters off Bali. (Photo by AFP)

Navy chief of staff Yudo Margono said the crew were not to blame for the accident and that the submarine did not experience a blackout, blaming "forces of nature."

"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. "There are scattered parts of the submarine and its interior in the water."

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."

Salvage operation

Any salvage operation would be risky and difficult, navy chief Margono said.

"We'll discuss it to make a decision on how to lift the submarine in this condition," he said Sunday.

"I want to lift it, but how do we bring it up from (these depths)?"

Neighboring Malaysia, as well as the United States, India and Australia, were among the nations helping in the hunt.

Search vessels, reconnaissance aircraft and submarine rescue ships had been deployed to scour a zone of about 10 square nautical miles (34 square kilometers).

Navy officials said international help will be crucial in recovering the remains of the vessel.

Indonesia police said it would deploy teams to Bali and the Java town of Banyuwangi, which hosts the naval base from where the main search and recovery operations are being conducted, to help identify the victims once the bodies are retrieved.

The submarine -- one of five in Indonesia's fleet -- disappeared early Wednesday while it was scheduled to do live torpedo training exercises off Bali.

The crew asked for permission to dive. It lost contact shortly after.

Later, search teams spotted an oil spill where the vessel was thought to have submerged, pointing to possible fuel-tank damage, and a catastrophic accident.

The submarine -- delivered to Indonesia in 1981 -- was seaworthy, the military said.

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 have said.

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

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

That submarine was on maneuvers in the Barents Sea when it sank with the loss of all 118 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.

Indonesia police said it would deploy teams to Bali and the Java town of Banyuwangi, which hosts the naval base from where the main search and recovery operations are being conducted, to help identify the victims once the bodies are retrieved.

Residents of Banyuwangi joined nationwide calls to accelerate the modernization of Indonesia's defense 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.

Southeast 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.

Indonesia had five submarines before the latest accident: two German-built Type 209s including Nanggala and three newer South Korean vessels.

(Source: Agencies)


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