Tragedy has struck Indonesia. Last week, a submarine on a training mission disappeared. Search teams have now located the vessel’s wreckage on the ocean floor. Sadly, the country’s military says all 53 crew members aboard died.
Indonesia's navy lost contact with the German-built diesel-powered KRI Nanggala 402 last Wednesday. The ship had been in service in Indonesia since 1981. It was carrying 49 crew members and three gunners as well as its commander, according to the Indonesian Defense Ministry.
“We received underwater pictures that are confirmed as parts of the submarine, including its rear vertical rudder, anchors, outer pressure body, embossed dive rudder, and other ship parts,” says military chief Hadi Tjahjanto.
An underwater robot equipped with cameras documented the lost submarine lying in at least three pieces on the ocean floor at a depth of 2,750 feet, says Admiral Yudo Margono, the navy’s chief of staff.
That’s much deeper than the submarine’s collapse depth of 655 feet. At that point, water pressure would have been greater than the hull could withstand, according to navy experts.
“With this authentic evidence, we can declare that KRI Nanggala 402 has sunk and all the crew members are dead,” Tjahjanto says.
The KRI Nanggala 402’s oxygen supply would have run out early Saturday, three days after the vessel disappeared off the resort island of Bali.
The Indonesian navy had said an electrical failure could have left the submarine unable to perform emergency procedures to resurface. But so far, the actual cause of the submarine’s sinking remains uncertain. In times of human doubt and tragedy, it is a comfort to know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39)
Margono says crews found emergency survival suits floating underwater. The suits are normally kept in boxes. Navy experts think that may mean the crew tried to put them on during the emergency.
The navy plans to lift the wreckage eventually and recover the dead. However, the depth of the water poses a significant challenge for rescue teams.
The remains of the sub lie about 1,500 yards to the south of the site where the submarine last dove off Bali’s northern coast.
The Indonesian vessel KRI Rigel had scanned the area using multibeam sonar and a magnetometer, according to Tjahjanto. The underwater robot deployed by Singaporean vessel MV Swift Rescue provided images of the debris on the ocean floor.
An American reconnaissance plane, a P-8 Poseidon, landed Saturday. It was set to join the search—along with 20 Indonesian ships, a sonar-equipped Australian warship, and four Indonesian aircraft.
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.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo delivered his condolences in a televised address Sunday.
“All Indonesians convey deep sorrow for this tragedy, especially to all of the families of the submarine’s crew,” Widodo says. “They are the best sons of the nation, patriots guarding the sovereignty of the country.”
(An Indonesian navy patrol ship sails on April 25, 2021, to join the search for submarine KRI Nanggala that went missing off Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia. AP/Achmad Ibrahim)