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Indonesian submarine salvage efforts called off

Neill Fronde



PHOTO: The Indonesian Navy called off salvage efforts for the sunken submarine. (via Wikimedia)

After the tragic search for Indonesia’s missing submarine ending in finding it had sunk with no survivors April 21, the government has officially ended attempts to salvage the sub. The KRI Nanggalla 402 was engaging in live torpedo trainings but disappeared in April with 53 crew members aboard. Days of frantic searches and hopes for survivors came to a close when an underwater rescue vehicle found the submarine breached and broken into a few pieces over 800 metres underwater on the seafloor.

The submarine sank off the coast of Bali and Chinese salvage ships came to help pulled up the wreckage from the seabed, but after consultation with the Chinese Navy, they called the rescue efforts off. The Indonesian Navy announced the end of salvage plans in a statement that called the recovery very risky and not an easy task. The military had considered options like air balloons and extremely powerful magnets to help pull the German-built submarine off the ocean floor.

The statement confirmed that over the last month, salvage missions have recovered what was cryptically referred to only as “important materials” from the shipwreck. But now, the hopes of retrieving the bodies of the 53 sailors from the sunken submarine have been dashed with the closure of salvage operations.

No official cause or explanation has been reported or confirmed yet, and it’s unclear if the government will ever disclose details. A search team had spotted an oil spill spurning speculation of a damaged fuel tank at fault. Another suspicion is that a blackout aboard prevented countermeasures as the submarine sank to depth. There is also a natural phenomenon called an internal solitary wave, where different sea depths meet and create essentially a suction that dragged the submarine deeper than what its hull could withstand, and now too deep to salvage.

The government defended the vessel’s seaworthiness though, stating that while it is old, having been received by Indonesia in 1981, it had been reconditioned and was safe, ruling out the possibility of an explosion.

While government salvage efforts of the submarine have been called off, relatives of the sailors lost in the tragedy still maintain hope of future retrieval of their loved ones. The father of one crewmember told reporters that they hope for help from other countries, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Families continue to hope the sailor’s remains will someday somehow be recovered.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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