A missing Indonesian submarine has been found, broken in at least three pieces, at the bottom of the Bali Sea, army and navy officials said, as the president sent his condolences to the families of the 53 crew members.
Rescuers also found new items, including a life jacket, which they believe belong to those aboard the 44-year-old KRI Nanggala-402, which lost contact Wednesday as it prepared to conduct a torpedo drill.
“Based on the evidence, it can be stated that the KRI Nanggala has sunk and all its crew members have died,” military chief Hadi Tjahjanto told reporters.
Navy Chief of Staff Yudo Margono said the crew was not to blame for the accident and that the submarine did not suffer a blackout, blaming “forces of nature.”
“The KRI Nanggala is divided into three parts, the hull of the ship, the stern of the ship and the main parts are all separated, with the main part being found cracked,” he said. “There are scattered parts of the submarine and its interior in the water.”
President Joko Widodo earlier confirmed the discovery in the Bali Sea and sent the families of the victims his condolences.
“All Indonesians express our deep sorrow for this tragedy, especially to the families of the submarine crew.”
A sonar scanner on Saturday detected the submarine at 850 meters (2,790 feet), well beyond the Nanggala’s dive range.
More than a dozen helicopters and ships were searching the area where contact was lost, with assistance from the United States, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia.
Navy officials said international help will be crucial to recovering the wreckage.
Singapore’s chief minister, Teo Chee Hean, wrote on social media late Sunday that an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) sent by the Singapore Navy was able to “recover some critical items from the seabed at a depth of more than 800 meters.”
“We hope this will help the families find some closure and certainty about the fate of their loved ones,” he added.
Search teams said Saturday they had found objects, including fragments of prayer rugs, near the submarine’s last known location, leading the navy to believe the vessel had broken up.
Indonesian police said they would deploy teams to Bali and the Java city of Banyuwangi, which houses the naval base from which the main search and recovery operations are being conducted, to help identify the victims once the bodies are recovered.
The people of Banyuwangi joined calls across the country to speed up the modernization of Indonesia’s defense forces.
“This can be a learning point for the government to advance its military technology and be careful in the use of its (existing) technology because the lives of its people are at stake,” said Hein Ferdy Sentoso, a 29-year-old resident.
Southeast Asia’s most populous country has been trying to revamp its military capabilities, but some equipment remains old and there have been fatal accidents in recent years.
Indonesia had five submarines before the latest accident: two German-made Type 209s, including the Nanggala, and three newer South Korean vessels.