Authorities say missing submarine has less than 36 hours of oxygen left
- The 53 crew on the missing Indonesian submarine could be alive, but they are fast running out of oxygen.
- The KRI Nanggala-402 submarine is only equipped with 72 hours of oxygen.
- Over 36 hours have passed since the submarine disappeared at 03:00 on Wednesday, local time.
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The Indonesian navy is racing against time to find and save the 53 crew members on board the missing KRI Nanggala-402 submarine, as the vessel only contains enough oxygen to last them till Saturday.
In a televised press conference on Thursday afternoon broadcast on Indonesian news outlet Kompas TV, Indonesian officials said that the submarine is only equipped with 72 hours of oxygen.
Over 36 hours have elapsed since the submarine disappeared in the waves off Bali's coast at 03:00 on Wednesday, local time. It was participating in a torpedo drill along the Bali Strait, a 60-kilometre-long stretch of water between the islands of Java and Bali that connects the Indian Ocean to the Bali Sea, when it went off the grid abruptly.
Indonesia's Ministry of Defense spokesperson, First Admiral Julius Widjojono, told members of the media on Wednesday that 49 crew members, one ship commander, and three weapons specialists were on board the missing submarine.
"We cannot say for sure if the vessel has sunk, but if it has, the crew may be running out of oxygen," said Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto during the press conference, adding that a massive search-and-rescue operation is currently underway to find the submarine.
According to the BBC, the country has deployed six warships, a helicopter, and 400 military personnel in an attempt to locate and surface the vessel.
Channel News Asia reported that rescue vessels from Singapore and Malaysia were sent to help find the submarine on Thursday.
Indonesian Major-General Achmad Riad said at Thursday's press conference that the navy was still searching for the submarine from the last position it was detected, which was around 23 nautical miles north of Bali. He added that he had no evidence to conclusively say that the submarine had already sunk.
The Indonesian navy lost contact with the submarine after it went off the grid at around 4.30 a.m. local time. This means the search-and-rescue team has slightly over a day to find the vessel and surface it - or guide it to shallow waters, where rescuers can extract the crew.
According to Reuters, rescuers doing an aerial search spotted an oil spill near the submarine's dive position at around 07:00 local time on Wednesday. Representatives from the Indonesian navy said that the oil spill indicated that the submarine's fuel tank might have cracked due to water pressure or other factors, plunging it to over 600 or 700 metres below sea level.
The 44-year-old German-made vessel, which has been in operation since the 1980s, was only built to withstand water pressure at a maximum depth of around 250 metres.
Submarine expert Frank Owen, secretary at the Submarine Institute of Australia, told Insider that he could not speculate on whether or not the crew of the submarine was still alive.
"If it has sunk in 700 metres of water, this is a problem because that is well below its maximum operating depth. I still retain hope that the submarine is in difficulty in terms of getting to the surface but is safe," Owen said, adding that the incident would be survivable in this best-case scenario.
"The best way to get the crew out is for the submarine to get to the surface or to shallow water," he said.
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