Rescuers race against time to find lost U-boat
- An Indonesian air force pilot said a total of six tonnes of equipment had been flown to a base to help with the search including underwater balloons to help lift the vessel, if found.
Rescue teams were battling against time on Friday to find a missing Indonesian navy submarine lost in the Bali Sea with 53 crew, which would be rapidly running out of oxygen if not already crushed by water pressure.
Search helicopters and more ships left Bali and a naval base in Java heading to the area where contact was lost with the 44-year-old KRI Nanggala-402 on Wednesday as it prepared to conduct a torpedo drill, with the head of the Indonesian submarine fleet aboard.
If the submarine was still intact, officials said it would only have enough air to last until around dawn on Saturday.
“So far we haven’t found it... but with the equipment available we should be able to find the location,” said Achmad Riad, a spokesman for the Indonesian military.
An Indonesian air force pilot said a total of six tonnes of equipment had been flown to a base to help with the search including underwater balloons to help lift the vessel, if found.
Indonesia’s navy said it was investigating whether the submarine lost power during a dive and could not carry out emergency procedures as it descended to a depth of 600-700 metres, well beyond its survivable limits.
An object with “high magnetic force” had been spotted “floating” at a depth of 50-100 metres, Indonesian navy chief of staff Yudo Margono said, and an aerial search had earlier spotted an oil spill near the submarine’s last location.
The diesel-electric powered submarine could withstand a depth of up to 500 metres, but anything more could be fatal, navy spokesman Julius Widjojono said. The Bali Sea can reach depths of more than 1,500 metres.
An Indonesian defence expert said the crew could still be found alive. “But if the submarine is in a 700-metre sea trough, it will be difficult for them to survive because underwater pressure will cause cracks and ruptures of the steel hull,” Connie Rahakundini Bakrie said.
The submarine joined the Indonesian fleet in 1981, according to the defence ministry, and underwent a refit in South Korea completed in 2012. It was said to be in good condition.