Eric Ireng / AP
Rescuers scouring the Bali Sea in search of a hit Indonesian submarine with 53 sailors on board hope the crew may still be alive, but as the hours pass since the ship’s disappearance, the chances of survival become increasingly slim.
The Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Navy, Adm. Yudo Margono told reporters Thursday that a search nearby where the diesel-powered KRI Nanggala 402 is believed to have fallen, about 60 miles north of the tourist island of Bali, had found an object with “high magnetic force. “which floated at a depth of 50-100 meters (about 165-330 feet). “Let’s hope it’s KRI Nanggala,” he said.
But the navy had previously said it believed the submarine could have sunk at a particularly deep spot in the otherwise relatively shallow sea – some 600-700 meters (2,000-2,300 feet) below – much deeper than the boat’s maximum operating depth and probably below. its crushing depth.
Even at best, the Navy Chief of Staff pointed out that with oxygen scheduled for early Saturday, a quick rescue would be key. “We hope we can save them before the oxygen runs out,” he said.
KRI Nanggala was conducting a weapons training exercise on Wednesday when the navy said the submarine had been given permission to dive and therefore never contacted radio again.
Previously, rescuers had reported finding an oil slick on the surface and the smell of diesel fuel, but there was no way to know if it came from the submarine. While an oil slick could be a sign that the ship was destroyed, the navy said it could simply mean the submarine’s fuel tank had been damaged. It could also be an intentional signal from the crew.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Thursday that he had ordered an “optimal” search for the submarine and that rescuing his crew was the “top priority”. He expressed sympathy with family members for their ordeal.
The German-built submarine has been in service since the early 1980s. Despite its age, a refit of the ship by South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering was completed in 2012. A Daewoo official told The Associated Press that the company had upgraded the boat’s internal structures and systems.
Speaking to reporters, the navy chief of staff said the submarine “had received a feasibility letter from the navy” and was “ready for battle”.
Navy spokesman Julius Widjojono previously told Indonesian KompasTV that the boat could sustain depths of 250-500 meters (approximately 820-1,640 feet). “Anything more can be quite fatal, dangerous,” he said.
A Daewoo Shipbuilding official, Ahn Guk-hyeon, told the AP that the submarine would collapse if it went deeper than about 200 meters (about 655 feet).
If the ship is intact, it may be too deep for a rescue, said Frank Owen, secretary of the Submarine Institute of Australia.
“Most rescue systems are actually only rated at around 600 meters (1,969 feet),” he told the AP. “They can go deeper because they will have a safety margin built into the design, but the pumps and other associated systems may not have the ability to function. So they can survive that depth, but not necessarily function.”
He said the Indonesian submarine was not equipped with a special hatch seal this would allow the crew to escape to a different ship during an underwater rescue.
“So the only way they have is to get to the surface and abandon the submarine to the surface; or if they are in the water less than 180 meters [590 feet] deep down they might wear a special suit so they can breathe and not burst their lungs and they can get to the surface, ”Owen told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s still risky but it’s doable,” Owen said.
The Indonesian military said on Thursday that at least 20 navy ships, two submarines and five aircraft had searched the area and that a hydro-oceanographic reconnaissance vessel equipped with underwater detection equipment was also on its way to the oil spill area. .
Australia, South Korea, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, India and Turkey have all offered to help in the search for the submarine and a possible rescue, the Indonesian navy said.
Ships from Singapore and Malaysia are also reportedly joining the search, but will not be able to reach the area until the weekend.