Search for missing Indonesia submarine continues

Desperate hunt for missing Indonesian submarine as oxygen set to run out

Even military aircraft from the USA had joined the search for Indonesia's missing KRI Nanggala-402 submarine on Friday, as the hours counted down to 3:00 PM EDT - when Indonesian officials said the vessel would exhaust its oxygen supply.

A total of 24 navy and other ships and a patrol plane were being mobilized for Friday's search with a focus on the area where an oil slick was found after the submarine disappeared during an exercise.

"Over the past few days we've recovered debris and items from the last location that the submarine was diving", Navy chief Yudo Margono told reporters.

An Indonesian navy submarine has been missing for days, and time is fast running out.

The Indonesian Navy submarine KRI Alugoro sails during a search for KRI Nanggala, another submarine that went missing while participating in a training exercise on Wednesday, in the waters off Bali Island, Indonesia, Thursday, April 22, 2021.

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.

Hopes for the 53 crew are dwindling, with officials saying that their supply of oxygen was expected to have run out early on Saturday.

On Friday, the Pentagon said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Indonesian counterpart and offered additional support, which could include undersea search assets.

An Indonesian defence expert said the crew could still be found alive.

Neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, as well as the United States and Australia, were among nations helping in the hunt with almost two dozen ships deployed to scour a search zone covering about 34 square kilometres (10 square nautical miles). Malaysian and Indian ships are also expected to arrive on Saturday.

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"The family is in a good condition and keeps praying", said Ratih Wardhani, the sister of 49-year-old crewman Wisnu Subiyantoro.

There's been no conclusive evidence the oil slick was from the sub. He asked Indonesians to pray for the crew's safe return while ordering all-out efforts to locate the stricken submarine.

The navy however, believes the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700m, much deeper than its collapse depth of 200m, at which water pressure would be greater than the hull could withstand.

Australia has also deployed a sonar-equipped frigate with a helicopter to help the submarine hunt, while navy officials said vessels are on route from India and Singapore, as concerns grow that the submarine might have been crushed by water pressure.

An Indonesian air force pilot said six tonnes of equipment had been flown to a base to help with the search including underwater balloons to help lift a vessel. The Bali Sea can reach depths of more than 1,500 metres.

"A blackout means the vessel's equipment can not be moved", he said.

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

The cause of the disappearance is still uncertain.

Fifty-three people, including the commander and crew, were on board. The navy has said an electrical failure could have left the submarine unable to execute emergency procedures to resurface.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago nation with more than 17,000 islands, has faced growing challenges to its maritime claims in recent years, including numerous incidents involving Chinese vessels near the Natuna islands.

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