JAKARTA: A missing submarine with 53 people on board has sunk, Indonesia’s navy confirmed on Saturday after finding items belonging to the vessel.
The items included a bottle of grease for the periscope, prayer mats, and debris from a tube that protects the torpedo.
“These items would not have left the submarine if there were not any cracks in the torpedo launcher,” Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Yudo Margono told a press conference. “Experts and former crew members of the submarine have said that these items are believed to be from the submarine. With this authentic evidence believed to be from KRI Nanggala, we raised the status from sub-miss to sub-sunk.”
Hopes for the crew’s safety began to fade too, with the oxygen deadline supply running out on Saturday morning.
But Margono said the search and rescue group was preparing a medical evacuation plan for any survivors.
“We don’t set the time yet when and how long the evacuation process would take. We are evaluating it based on what we found. And we still don’t have any proof of any victim.”
The Cakra-class submarine, which has been in service with the navy since 1981, is believed to have sunk 850 meters deep in the waters north of Bali.
The German-built vessel went missing on Wednesday morning after it lost contact as its base was about to give clearance to fire a torpedo during an exercise.
Margono said the submarine could have cracked, and the crack gradually spread due to water pressure as the submarine was sinking.
The oil spill found near its last dive location - the first indication of the submarine’s grim condition - is believed to have emitted from the crack and deliberately discharged by the crew in an attempt to reduce the submarine’s load so that it became lighter and could stay afloat.
Margono ruled out an explosion since its sound would have been picked up by the sonar system.
Search efforts are concentrated in nine areas about 18.52 square kilometers wide, about 40 kilometers north of Bali.
The military said 29 ships had been deployed to scour the waters, including 21 military ships, while assistance to evacuate the sinking sub was coming from Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and the US, which deployed its maritime patrol aircraft the Boeing P-8 Poseidon, military spokesman Major General Achmad Riad said.