The oxygen supply for the 53 crew members of an Indonesian submarine missing in waters off Bali is believed to have run out, with no sign of the vessel as the search resumed bolstered by the arrival of a sonar-equipped Australian warship.
The KRI Nanggala-402 went missing after its last reported dive on Wednesday off the resort island, and concern is mounting it may have sunk too deep to reach or recover in time.
Indonesia’s navy chief said on Friday the submarine was expected to run out of oxygen early on Saturday morning local time.
There have been no signs of life from the submarine, but family members held out hope that the massive search effort would find the vessel in time.
“The family is in a good condition and keeps praying,” said Ratih Wardhani, the sister of 49-year-old crewman Wisnu Subiyantoro.
“We are optimistic that the Nanggala can be rescued with all the crew.”
Twenty-four Indonesian ships and a patrol plane were mobilised for the search, focusing on the area where an oil slick was found after the submarine disappeared during an exercise.
An American reconnaissance plane, P-8 Poseidon, was expected to join the search on Saturday, along with a second Australian navy ship.
“These two Australian ships will help expand the search area and extend the duration of the search effort,” Australian Navy Rear Admiral Mark Hammond said.
Singaporean and Malaysian rescue ships were also expected in the coming days.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo cancelled a visit to Banyuwangi port, where some rescue ships left earlier, to prepare for a weekend regional summit in Jakarta, officials said.
He asked Indonesians to pray for the crew’s safe return, while ordering all-out efforts to locate the submarine.
“Our main priority is the safety of the 53 crew members,” Mr Widodo said in a televised address on Thursday.
“To the family of the crew members, I can understand your feelings and we are doing our best to save all crew members on board.”
Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Yudo Margono said an unidentified object exhibiting high magnetism was located at a depth of 50 to 100 metres and officials held out hope it is the submarine.
The navy said it believes, however, that the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700m, much deeper than its collapse depth, at which water pressure would be greater than the hull could withstand. The vessel’s collapse depth was estimated at 200m by a South Korean company that refitted the vessel in 2009-2012.
The cause of the disappearance is still uncertain. The navy has said an electrical failure could have left the submarine unable to execute emergency procedures to resurface.