Indonesia’s navy has declared its missing submarine has sunk and cracked open after finding items from the vessel over the past two days, seemingly ending hope of finding any of the 53 crew members alive.
Searchers had found parts of a torpedo straightener, a grease bottle believed to be used to oil the periscope, debris from prayer rugs and a broken piece from a coolant pipe that was refitted on the submarine in South Korea in 2012.
Military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said the presence of an oil slick as well as debris near the location of the submarine’s last dive on Wednesday near Bali were clear proof the KRI Nanggala 402 had sunk.
Indonesian officials earlier considered the vessel to be only missing, but said the submarine’s oxygen supply would have run out early Saturday.
“If it’s an explosion, it will be in pieces,” Navy Chief Yudo Margono told a press conference in Bali.
“The cracks happened gradually in some parts when it went down from 300 meters to 400 meters to 500 meters.
“If there was an explosion, it would be heard by the sonar.”
The navy previously said it believes the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700m, much deeper than its collapse depth of 200m, at which point water pressure would be greater than the hull could withstand.
“With the authentic evidence we found believed to be from the submarine, we have now moved from the ‘sub miss’ phase to ‘sub sunk’,” Chief Margono said.
The cause of the disappearance was still uncertain. The navy had previously said an electrical failure could have left the submarine unable to execute emergency procedures to resurface.
Chief Margono said rescue teams from Indonesia and other countries will evaluate the findings. He said no bodies have been found so far.
An American reconnaissance plane, a P-8 Poseidon, landed early Saturday and had been set to join the search, along with 20 Indonesian ships, a sonar-equipped Australian warship and four Indonesian aircraft.
Singaporean rescue ships were also expected Saturday, while Malaysian rescue vessels were due to arrive Sunday, bolstering the underwater hunt, officials said.
Family members had held out hopes for survivors but there were no signs of life from the vessel.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo had ordered all-out efforts to locate the submarine and asked Indonesians to pray for the crew’s safe return.
The German-built diesel-powered KRI Nanggala 402 had been in service in Indonesia since 1981 and was carrying 49 crew members and three gunners as well as its commander, the Indonesian Defence Ministry said.
Indonesia has faced growing challenges to its maritime claims in recent years, including numerous incidents involving Chinese vessels near the Natuna islands.