Time is running out for missing Indonesian submarine as US joins Reuters search

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By Yuddy Cahya Budiman and Ajeng Dinar Ulfiani

BANYUWANGI, Indonesia (Reuters) – Rescue teams from several countries were battling against the clock on Friday to find an Indonesian navy submarine lost in the Bali Sea with 53 crew members, which would quickly run out of oxygen. ‘he wasn’t already overwhelmed by the pressure of the water.

Search helicopters and other vessels left Bali and a naval base in Java for the area where contact was lost with the 44-year-old KRI Nanggala-402 on Wednesday as it prepared to carry out a torpedo exercise, with the head of the Indonesian submarine. floats on board.

If the submarine was still intact, officials said it would only have enough air to last until dawn on Saturday.

“So far we haven’t found it … but with the equipment available, we should be able to find the location,” Achmad Riad, an Indonesian military spokesperson said, at a press conference.

An Indonesian Air Force pilot said six tons of equipment had been routed to a base to help with the search, including underwater balloons to help lift a ship.

The Indonesian Navy said it was investigating whether the submarine lost power during a dive and was unable to perform emergency procedures as it descended to a depth of 600 to 700 meters, well at – beyond its limits of survival.

An object with “high magnetic force” had been spotted “floating” at a depth of 50-100 meters, Indonesian Navy Chief of Staff Yudo Margono said, and an aerial search had previously spotted a spill of oil near the last location of the submarine.

The diesel-electric submarine could withstand a depth of up to 500 meters (1,640 feet), but anything more could be fatal, Navy spokesman Julius Widjojono said. The Bali Sea can reach depths of over 1,500 meters.

One of the people on board was the Commander of the Indonesian Submarine Fleet, Harry Setiawan.

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

“But if the submarine is in a 700-meter sea trough, it will be difficult for them to survive as the underwater pressure will cause the steel hull to crack and rupture,” said Connie Rahakundini Bakrie.

PARENTS IN DISTRESS WAIT FOR THE NEWS

The submarine joined the Indonesian fleet in 1981, according to the Defense Ministry, and underwent a refit in South Korea completed in 2012. It is said to be in good condition.

“I hope they are found alive,” said Berda Asmara, wife of crew member Guntur Ari Prasetyo, 39, who has been sailing the Nanggala for 10 years.

“We had a video call. He told me he would go sailing and asked me to pray for him,” she said of the last time they spoke. .

Natalie Sambhi, Indonesian military and security expert at Verve Research, said the best-case scenario was that the submarine was not at great depth, but even then the challenges were immense.

“When you factor in the oxygen levels for the actual crew count and then the time it takes to locate, assess recovery, and then engage in that recovery, that timeline seems even longer. .

Australia, India, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States have sent specialized vessels or aircraft in response to Indonesian requests for assistance.

The US Department of Defense is sending “airborne assets” to help search for the submarines, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Two Australian Navy ships were heading towards the search area, including a frigate with special sonar capabilities, the Defense Department said.

Indonesia operates five submarines – two German-built Type 209s, including the Nanggala, and three new South Korean ships.

It has sought to modernize its defense capabilities but some of its equipment is old and there have been fatal accidents in recent years.

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