The Indonesian authorities have declared the submarine “sunk” that disappeared last Wednesday with 53 crew members on board. The disastrous announcement comes after a search against the clock of the submersible, since it was anticipated that the oxygen supply that could keep its occupants alive would last a maximum of 72 hours, already exceeded. The heads of the Indonesian Army and Navy have concluded that objects found in the tracking area, north of Bali Island, come from the submarine and are “authentic evidence” of its sinking.

“The Navy has found oil spills and remains of objects, which are evidence that the KRI Nanggala – name of the missing ship – has sunk ”, said this Saturday the head of the Army, Hadi Tjahjanto, in a press conference. For his part, the highest representative of the Navy, Yudo Margono, added: “During the past few days, we have found remains and objects around the last location where the submarine is known to be submerged. These would not have left the submarine if there was no external pressure or enough damage for them to emerge ”. Among the objects found there is a piece of a torpedo, rugs for prayer – Indonesia is the country with the most Muslims in the world – and lubricant for periscopes.

The KRI Nanggala, manufactured by Germany in 1977, was reported missing at dawn on Wednesday when it was preparing to carry out military exercises with torpedoes. The authorities had until the early hours of this Saturday, around 4:00 local time (21:00 GMT on Friday), to find the submarine with the possibility that its 53 occupants would remain alive, given the limits of the oxygen reserve. The bathyscaphe should have surfaced at 5.15am on Wednesday (22.15 GMT on Tuesday), after carrying out the exercise, which never happened.

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Indonesia has deployed up to 21 warships, patrol boats, helicopters and hundreds of troops for search tasks, in a perimeter located about 100 kilometers north of the island of Bali. On Friday it also sent a ship with sonar capability – a technique that uses the propagation of sound underwater to navigate, communicate or detect submerged objects – the KRI Rigel-933, with the aim of finding the missing ship in a motionless position.

Other countries, including the United States, also contribute to the search. Washington has sent the Boeing P-8 Poseidon, a state-of-the-art Navy aircraft designed for anti-submarine warfare and vessel interception missions, which was originally due to join operations Friday night. Two Australian frigates also joined the operation the day before, while a rescue ship from Singapore was expected to arrive in Bali on Saturday, and another from Malaysia on Sunday. India has sent a specialized deep-sea rescue submarine.

The search is focused on a ten-nautical-mile zone, tracking fuel leaks and detected magnetic fields, which Indonesian authorities believe may indicate the presence of the ship. Without being known with certainty, the Asian country’s Navy is contemplating the possibility that the submarine was left without electricity during the dive and could not activate the emergency device while it plunged into depths above its capacity (between 250 and 500 meters to be able to withstand the pressure).

According to the Indonesian Army, the KRI Nanggala-402, the oldest of the Indonesian fleet – which has a total of eight submarines, including the wrecked one – was in good condition. It was delivered in 1981 to this country, which has four other ships of German origin, in addition to three bought from South Korea.

This is the first incident of its kind for Indonesia, adding to the list of countries that have suffered similar incidents. Among the most serious is the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk in 2000 while maneuvering in the Barents Sea with 118 people on board. An investigation determined that a torpedo had exploded, killing most of the crew, although some survived for days and later died from lack of oxygen.

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