Sunken missing Indonesian submarine found cracked open, officials say 53 crew members dead

A military personnel holds an escape suit believed to be from the sunken submarine during a media conference in Bali, on April 25, 2021. PHOTO: X03535
Parts of the missing submarine have been found cracked apart on the seafloor in waters off Bali. PHOTO: AFP
A military officer shows a video of the sunk Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Nanggala during a press conference on April 25, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A military officer looks at pictures of crew members on the missing Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Nanggala in Bali on April 23, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
The Republic of Singapore Navy’s MV Swift Rescue was dispatched expeditiously on April 21, 2021. PHOTO: NG ENG HEN/FACEBOOK
An image from the camera of the MV Swift Rescue vessel, captured at a depth of 838m, showing the dive rudder from the sunken submarine. PHOTO: THE INDONESIAN NAVY
An image from the camera of the MV Swift Rescue vessel, captured at a depth of 838m, showing hull parts from the sunken submarine. PHOTO: THE INDONESIAN NAVY

SINGAPORE/BANYUWANGI - Indonesian authorities said on Sunday (April 25) that the submarine which went missing during naval exercises was found cracked into three parts on the seabed in the waters north of Bali island, and all 53 crew on board were dead.

Indonesian national armed forces commander, Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, told a press conference that the KRI Rigel, Indonesia's hydrographic survey vessel, had carried out a "more accurate scan" of the spot where the ill-fated submarine was last detected.

Singapore rescue vessel MV Swift Rescue, which arrived early on Sunday, had sent down its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and captured with its camera several images of the wreckage, including hull parts, a vertical rear steer, anchor, dive rudder and escape suit.

"Based on the authentic evidence, I declare that the KRI Nanggala-402 has sunk and all the crew have died," Air Chief Marshal Hadi said. "They're the best soldiers... and may the God Almighty reward their good deeds and dedication."

The 44-year-old submarine was taking part in a torpedo-firing drill off Bali last Wednesday when it dove and lost contact. More than 20 vessels from Indonesia and countries including Singapore and Australia were deployed in search-and-rescue efforts.

At the same briefing, Indonesia's Navy Chief of Staff, Admiral Yudo Margono, said the KRI Rigel had carried out "significant underwater contact using a multi-beam sonar", but its ROV could not go deeper than 800m, so the task was handed over to the MV Swift Rescue for visual confirmation.

A tattered bright orange escape suit floating in the dark waters gave a glimpse of what might have happened.

"This escape suit was usually kept in a box. The fact that it has come out of the box means there was an emergency situation... Either they were not able to put the suits on fast enough, or the submarine shook while they were trying to put them on," Adm Yudo said.

SPH Brightcove Video
A nation mourns for the 53 men who have perished in the depths of the Bali Sea, from the 42-year-old football-loving submarine commander to a newly-married father-to-be. This is the second in a series of videos on the sunk Indonesian submarine.
A handout photo shows a safety suit found at the site of the missing submarine in waters off Bali, on April 25, 2021. PHOTO: AFP/INDONESIAN MILITARY

The next step will be to coordinate with other agencies, as well as foreign navies, to lift the wreckage, he added.

Earlier, debris such as a prayer mat and periscope lubricant were recovered from the waters. Searchers also detected an oil spill and an unidentified object with high magnetism at a depth of 50m to 100m.

The tragedy marked the first submarine disaster in Indonesia, which has been replacing its ageing military equipment. Adm Yudo dismissed the possibility of human error, saying the crew had met all necessary requirements for the dive.

The disaster has devastated the country.

President Joko Widodo said in a statement broadcast on Sunday: "This tragedy has shocked us all.

"We convey our deep sorrow for this tragedy, especially to families of the submarine crew. They were the best sons of the nation, the best patriots who guarded the sovereignty of the country."

SPH Brightcove Video
Indonesian military chief on Sunday confirmed all crew onboard the sunken submarine KRI Nanggala-402 have died.

​Mr Oni Suryono, a 50-year-old driver and resident of Banyuwangi, a coastal city in East Java close to the rescue operations, said: "They are our compatriots, national heroes. Before this naval exercise, they had gone everywhere to guard the nation and maintain the country's sovereignty."

Singapore's Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean expressed his condolences, and hoped the find would bring the families some closure and certainty on the fate of their loved ones.

He wrote on Facebook: "As a fellow naval officer, we are saddened that our rescue team was not able to save the sailors."

SPH Brightcove Video
An Indonesian submarine, with 53 people on board, has gone missing. The clock is ticking before the oxygen runs out. A Singapore rescue vessel is on the way to join the search.

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.

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