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An Indonesian Submarine Just Went Missing Along With 53 People

Australia and Singapore have joined the hunt for the missing vessel.

UPDATE:

Indonesian officials said the vessel would exhaust its oxygen supply today between 3 and 4 PM EDT (April 23, 2021). While the search has yet to be called off, it is with deep regret that we observe the passing of this deadline. With it comes the dwindling likelihood that the submarine, along with its crew of 53, survived. Please see our most recent coverage with the latest information. Our original coverage follows in full. 

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An Indonesian Navy submarine with 53 people aboard went missing during a Wednesday military exercise in the Bali sea — prompting the archipelagic nation to reach out for help from its neighbors Singapore and Australia in hopes of finding and rescuing the sailors alive, according to a statement from Indonesian authorities in a New York Times report.

Indonesian submarine was executing a torpedo drill

The initial statement from the Indonesian Ministry of Defense said the KRI Nanggala-402 — a German-built submarine — failed to maintain contact amid a torpedo drill in the Bali Strait, lying between the islands of Bali and Java. Before it disappeared, the submarine requested permission to dive at 3:00 AM local time (3:00 PM EDT) — then it lost contact, said the official statement, which also said an oil spill was seen at roughly 7:00 AM local time (7:00 PM EDT) by aerial surveillance near where the submarine dived.

Sadly, the oil spill is "highly suspected" to have come from the missing submarine, according to a statement from Indonesian spokesman Colonel Julius Widjojono, in a CNN report. He added that the submarine can dive 1,640 ft (500 m) below sea level, but revealed that the military thinks it dove nearly 660 ft (200 m) deeper than its maximum depth. "Let's pray for them so they can survive," he told the media. We don't know for sure yet, but this could mean the submarine imploded from excessive ocean pressure on its external hull.

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Earlier on Wednesday, Hadi Tjahjanto, Indonesia's military chief, said the entity was "searching in the waters of Bali, 60 miles (96 km) from Bali, [for] 53 people," according to Reuters. As of writing, the hunt for the missing submarine is moving forward via two Indonesian warships using side-can sonar — a tool enabling the mapping of the seafloor. Also involved in the search is the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) — an organization that executes rapid-response service for submarines in emergencies. India has also offered assistance, along with Australia and Singapore.

Indonesia has sought upgrades for aging military equipment

The Indonesian submarine weighs 1,395 tons (1,265 metric tons), and was constructed by the German shipbuilding firm Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) — joining the Indonesian Navy in 1981. It finished a two-year refit in South Korea in 2012, and has served in a fleet of five German-built Type 209 submarines that make up Indonesia's submarine navy — along with three more recent additions from South Korean engineers.

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As of writing, the cause or ultimate fate of the missing submarine remains unknown, but Indonesia has sought upgrades to its defenses for some time — with much aging equipment already linked to deadly accidents, including military transport planes. It remains to be seen whether this incident will prove to be another tragic instance, or if the 53 people will be saved.

This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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