An Indonesian military submarine that went missing off Bali with 53 people on board is believed to be 700 metres underwater, based on its last-known location, the navy said on Thursday.
The German-made KRI Nanggala-402 lost contact about 95 kilometres north of Bali in the early hours of Wednesday during a torpedo attack exercise with 49 crew members, three gunners and a commander, officials said.
“We suspect it is at a depth of 600-700 metres,” Navy spokesperson Julius Widjojono said.
“It is designed to dive to depths of 250-500 metres. Beyond that it’s dangerous,” he added.
Widjojono said the fuel tank might have been damaged by water pressure.
Four naval ships were involved in the search and two others – including one from Malaysia – were on the way, he said.
The fate of the submarine’s 53 crew members is unknown.
The Defence Ministry said late on Wednesday that aerial surveillance by a helicopter found an oil spill in the location where the submarine was last detected.
Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the country’s submarine rescue vessel, MV Swift Rescue, was dispatched with a medical team on Wednesday afternoon following a request from the Indonesian navy.
“The site for search operations, near Bali, is more than 1,500 km away and waters are deep, which is why MV Swift Rescue sailed off as soon as she could,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
The military said it had also sought the help of Australia.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told Sky News her country was moving to help, but said Australia operates very different submarines from the one that is missing.
“There is no question that submarine search and rescue is very complex,” Payne said.
“Whatever we are able to do we have undertaken to do,” she added.
Retired Rear Admiral Soleman Ponto said the crew could live up to 72 hours.
“We have 72 hours maximum. There is oxygen on board for only 60-70 hours. Beyond that, all the people will be dead,” he told dpa.
“To save the people, we don’t have the equipment, but Singapore has,” he added.
Military analyst Susaningtyas Kertopati said the military had up to 60 hours to rescue the personnel.
“This opportunity must be used optimally by inviting other countries’ navies to carry out this humanitarian mission,” she said.
The Indonesian military has five submarines, including the missing one. Two of the submarines were out of service, the military said last year.
The Nanggala-402 was built by German company Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft in Kiel in the late 1970s.
Last month, South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) supplied the last of three submarines ordered by the Indonesian military.
That submarine is the first to be assembled locally in Indonesia by the state-owned shipbuilding company PT PAL, the government said.
Indonesia plans to acquire eight more by 2024 for a total of 13.