Indonesia authorities say 53 submarine crew members dead

Military officials say the stricken sub was discovered broken into three pieces on Sunday.

A military officer shows a life vest from the sunken Indonesian navy submarine during a press conference on Sunday [Made Nagi/EPA]

A missing Indonesian submarine has been found cracked apart on the seafloor in waters off Bali, the military said on Sunday, as it confirmed all 53 crew were dead.

Rescuers found new objects, including a life vest, that they believe belong to those on board the 44-year-old KRI Nanggala-402, which lost contact as it prepared to conduct a torpedo drill.

“Based on the evidence, it can be stated that the KRI Nanggala has sunk and all of its crew have died,” military chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters.

The submarine – one of five in Indonesia’s fleet – disappeared off the Indonesian holiday island of Bali.

“There were parts of KRI Nanggala-402 – it was broken into three pieces,” said Navy Chief of Staff Yudo Margono. “The hull of the ship, the stern of the ship, and the main parts are all separated, with the main part found cracked.”

People offer prayers for the 53 sailors killed in the submarine in Surabaya on Sunday [Juni Kriswanto/AFP]

‘Deep sorrow’

Authorities said they received signals from the location more than 800 metres (2,600 feet) deep early on Sunday and used an underwater submarine rescue vehicle supplied by Singapore to get a visual confirmation.

Tjahjanto said more parts from the vessel were discovered on Sunday, including an anchor and safety suits worn by crew members.

President Joko Widodo earlier confirmed the discovery in the Bali Sea and sent the families of the victims his condolences.

“All of us Indonesians express our deep sorrow over this tragedy, especially to the families of the submarine crew.”

On Saturday, the navy said fragments of the submarine, including items from inside the vessel, had been retrieved but its location had yet to be confirmed. Objects – including prayer mat fragments and a bottle of periscope lubricant were found near the submarine’s last known location.

Calls for modernisation

More than a dozen helicopters and ships searched the area where contact was lost, with the United States, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and India providing assistance.

Residents of the East Java town of Banyuwangi, which hosts the naval base from where search and rescue operations were 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.

Southeast Asia’s most populous country has sought to revamp its military capability, yet some equipment is still old and there have been fatal accidents in recent years.

Indonesia had five submarines before the latest accident: two German-built Type 209s including Nanggala and three newer South Korean vessels.

Source: News Agencies