Indonesia finds missing submarine in pieces on seafloor, all 53 crew members killed
All 53 crew aboard an Indonesian submarine that disappeared this week were killed, the military said on Sunday as it confirmed the vessel had been found in pieces on the seafloor.
Authorities said that they picked up signals early on Sunday from a location more than 800 metres 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 neighbouring 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 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 bottle of grease used to lubricate periscopes and 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 on Wednesday 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.
Relatives of First Lieutenant Muhammad Imam Adi, a 29-year-old father of a young son, clung to hope earlier on Sunday.
“My wish now is that my son and all the crew can be found,” Adi’s father Edy Sujianto said from his home on Java island.
“My son had wanted to become a soldier since he was a child. That was his dream.”
President Joko Widodo described the sailors 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 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 the evidence suggested the submarine came apart as it was crushed by massive water pressure in the vast depths.
“Submarine hulls are pressurised… but when they’re breached then water would come flooding inside,” said Wisnu Wardhana, a maritime expert at Indonesia’s Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology.
“Can you imagine if water with that kind of pressure hits people?”
Retired French vice-admiral Jean-Louis Vichot earlier told AFP that a submarine’s hull could collapse “like a folding accordion” if it hits depths way beyond its limits.
The German-built 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 submarine’s age as a potential factor, analysts say.
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 on Sunday.
“I want to lift it, but how do we bring it up from [these depths]?”
The disaster was among a string of fatal submarine accidents over the past few decades.