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Indonesia’s navy said it was searching for a submarine with 53 crew aboard after losing contact with the vessel during naval exercises off the coast of Bali on Wednesday.
The German-built KRI Nanggala 402 was scheduled to do live torpedo exercises when it asked for permission to dive early Wednesday morning, authorities said.
‘After permission was given according to the procedure, the submarine lost contact and could not be reached,’ the defence ministry said.
A helicopter looking for the missing vessel spotted an oil spill in waters where the submarine was thought to have submerged, it added.
The navy said it has not pinpointed the exact location of the submarine but had narrowed down the search based on the spill.
The oil ‘could indicate damage on the body‘ of the submarine, navy spokesman Julius Widjojono told MetroTV.
The military has dispatched some 400 personnel and two warships in the hunt, while a third vessel was being deployed from the capital Jakarta.
It also sent out an international distress signal, and ‘several countries have responded and are ready to help including Singapore, Australia and India,’ the defence ministry said.
There were 53 crew aboard the vessel, which was believed to be in waters about 700 metres (2,300 feet) deep.
Indonesia, which has been moving to upgrade its military equipment in recent years, has five German and South Korean-built submarines in its fleet.
The 1,300-tonne KRI Nanggala 402 was built in 1978, according to a government website.
While the Southeast Asian archipelago has not previously suffered a major submarine disaster, other countries have been struck by accidents in the past.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK