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Debris recovered from missing Indonesian submarine

Indonesia said a submarine that disappeared off the coast of Bali with 53 aboard had sunk, after revealing that items and components from inside the stricken vessel had been recovered.

Indonesia’s military chief, Air Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto, said pieces of debris discovered by search teams include heat-resistant sponges, prayer mats, periscope lubricant and a device that protects a torpedo.

“The objects found near the last location of the submarine are believed to be parts of the submarine,” he said.

“These objects would have never got out of the submarine unless there was pressure.”

Navy chief Yudo Margono said the retrieved items could not have come from another vessel, and the location of the debris suggests the submarine should be declared sunk. 

“With authentic evidence believed to be from the KRI Nanggala, we have raised the status from submiss to subsunk.”

The submarine – one of five in Indonesia’s fleet – disappeared early Wednesday during live torpedo training exercises off the Indonesian holiday island.

Despite hopes for a miracle, an oil spill spotted where the submarine is thought to have submerged pointed to possible fuel-tank damage, fanning fears of a deadly disaster.

Indonesian military officials look at a map of the location where the Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Nanggala went missing.

Indonesian military officials look at a map of the location where the Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Nanggala went missing.

AAP

“The oil spill is a bad sign,” said retired French vice-admiral Jean-Louis Vichot.

“If it’s from the submarine, then it is probably the end.”

There were concerns that the submarine could have been crushed by water pressure if it sank to depths reaching 700 metres – well below what it was built to withstand.

Few explanations

The vessel was scheduled to conduct the training exercises when it asked for permission to dive. It lost contact shortly after.

Authorities have not offered possible explanations for the submarine’s sudden disappearance or commented on questions about whether the decades-old vessel was overloaded.

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

Neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, as well as the United States and Australia, were among nations helping in the hunt with nearly two dozen ships deployed to scour a search zone covering about  34 square kilometres (10 square nautical miles).

22 April: Australia to assist in search for Indonesia submarine

Australia’s HMAS Ballarat arrived on Saturday with a US P-8 Poseidon aircraft also helping to look for the craft.

Singapore’s MV Swift Rescue – a submarine rescue vessel – was expected later Saturday.

Indonesia’s military said earlier it had picked up signs of an object with high magnetism at a depth of between 50 and 100 metres, fanning hopes of finding the submarine.

But the passing of Saturday’s oxygen deadline was likely to mean the Southeast Asian archipelago would be added to a list of countries struck by fatal submarine accidents.

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

That submarine was on manoeuvres 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.

In 2003, 70 Chinese naval officers and crew were killed, apparently suffocated, in an accident on a Ming-class submarine during exercises in 2003.

Five years later, 20 people were killed by poisonous gas when a fire extinguishing system was accidentally activated on a Russian submarine being tested in the Sea of Japan.

And in 2018, authorities found the wreckage of an Argentine submarine that had gone missing a year earlier with 44 sailors aboard.

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