By Adi Renaldi and Shibani Mahtani,
Achmad Ibrahim AP
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s navy on Saturday said they found debris and items likely to be from a submarine that went missing days ago, meaning it is almost certain to have sunk with its 53 crew members who are unlikely to have survived.
Speaking at a news conference, Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Yudo Margono declared that the submarine had sunk, citing items found near its known location. Rescuers, he said, found items from the KRI Nanggala-402, a diesel-electric submarine, including a torpedo straightened and prayer rugs.
“With the authentic proof believed to come from the Nanggala, we are escalating the status from a sub-miss to sub-sunk phase,” Margono said, using a military term which means the submarine has drowned. Officials previously considered the submarine as “missing.”
Search and rescue personnel, he said, have detected the vessel at a depth of 850 meters, a depth at which survival would be near impossible.
Margono did not confirm or comment on the fate of the crew members, and said rescuers are still working to locate and evacuate the crew trapped inside. Officials however previously said that the submarine’s oxygen supply would have run out early Saturday.
An international rescue operation is ongoing to find the missing submarine, which officials said could have lost power during a dive and been crushed by the water pressure at such depths. The Indonesian navy has cleared an American reconnaissance plane, a P-8 Poseidon, to help in the efforts, along with a warship from Australia. More resources from Singapore and Malaysia were expected on Saturday.
“The rescue team on the ground works hard,” Margono said. But, he added, there is exceptional “difficulty in performing an operation at that depth.”
Other than the objects, rescuers have also found an oil spill and detected an unidentified object exhibiting high magnetism at a site about 40 kilometers north of Bali.
Since the submarine went missing, relatives have been holding on to hope that their loved ones might be discovered alive. The hashtag #PrayForKRINanggala402 has been trending in the country since Friday, as the latest disaster grips a country that has in recent years suffered from natural disaster, tragedy and most recently the coronavirus pandemic.
Berda Asmara, wife of 2nd-class petty officer Mes Guntur Ari Prasetya who is onboard the submarine, said she has not been able to sleep for three days. She said she spoke to her husband over a video call just 30 minutes before his departure on the Nanggala, which he had sailed on for a decade.
She has been too distraught, she said, to tell their 8-year old daughter what has happened.
“I don’t know how to explain it to her,” said Asmara, a 33-year old university lecturer in Surabaya. “She keeps asking why I am crying.”
She found out about the incident, she said, from a WhatsApp group of wives of sailors and crew members on the submarine.
Winny Widayani, the 45-year old wife of Col. Harry Setiawan, said he had been serving with the Nanggala for almost two decades. Her 18-year old son, she said, plans to enroll in the military next year, inspired by his father.
“I know my husband is strong,” Widayanti said. “I believe he will survive and we can be back together.”
Mahtani reported from Hong Kong.