The crew of the missing Indonesian submarine will have oxygen at least until Saturday. This has been reported by the navy, which has started a major search operation to track down the 44-year-old KRI Nanggala 402.
The submarine with 53 crew members disappeared on Wednesday during exercises north of Bali. The submarine had requested permission to dive and then lost contact. Later, an oil spill was found, indicating possible damage on board or released by the crew on purpose to help pinpoint their location.
Indonesia’s navy has sent six vessels and a helicopter to the area to search for the submarine. These include vessels with sonar equipment. They use sound to detect objects. The search is focused on the area where the oil was found.
The authorities are taking into account a scenario in which the crew lost control of the submarine due to a malfunction. The Chief of Naval Staff says that an object has now been detected at a depth of 50 to 100 metres. He says it has ‘great magnetic power’.
Malaysia and Singapore have already sent ships. They will arrive in the coming days. These include the MV Swift Rescue, a specialised rescue vessel. France, Germany, the United States and Australia have also offered assistance.
Experts do not rule out that rescue will not be possible if the submarine is indeed at a depth of 700 metres, as was reported earlier. The vessel is not designed for such depths meaning there is a risk it could implode. The submarine is designed for water dephts of up to 250 metres.
Previous submarine accidents
Submarine accidents have often had fatal consequences in the past. For example, the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk was lost in 2000 after a torpedo exploded on board. Some crew members survived for some time in the badly damaged vessel, but none of the 118 people on board were saved.
In 2003, seventy Chinese military personnel lost their lives on board a Ming-class submarine. They were allegedly suffocated during an exercise due to technical problems. That was one of the most serious peacetime military accidents for China.
The disappearance of an Argentine submarine stirred up controversy at the end of 2017. The vessel was finally recovered after about a year. All 44 people on board lost their lives.
Picture by U.S. Pacific Fleet/Flickr.