A lone underwater wave may have hit the military submarine KRI Nanggala-402 and caused the death of the 53 people who were on board. The submersible was found sectioned in three parts on the seabed off the coast of Bali, Indonesia, last Sunday (25) after disappearing on April 21.

A NASA explained that the combination of strong tidal currents, a bottom oceanic rugged and the water exchange between two channels - one shallow and the other deep - "tend to combine every 14 days to create an exceptionally strong tidal flow".

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According to satellite images consulted by Indonesian naval officers, huge waves were seen at the time of the submarine's disappearance at 3 am (GMT).

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The underwater lone wave is invisible and may have "risen from the base to the north," said the commander of the Indonesian Navy Command and Staff School, Rear Admiral Iwan Isnurwanto. “There is a trench between two mountains. There was nothing they could do, no time to do anything if the sub was knocked over by such a wave. It probably tilted [down], causing all crew members to roll down, "he said.

The Indonesian Navy hopes to confirm the cause of the accident as soon as possible. Two previously raised hypotheses pointed to a possible blackout or even that the KRI Nanggala-402 had been hit by a missile.

Crew members' clothes were found

The Chief of Staff of the navy of the country, Yudo Margono, reported that the submarine had been found and commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, Hadi Tjahjanto, confirmed that "all 53 crew members died".

An underwater rescue vehicle provided by Singapore was used to obtain visual confirmation after Indonesian authorities received signals from the wreck site - more than 2.600 feet (800 meters) deep - early on Sunday (25).

In addition to the three parts of the vessel, an anchor and safety clothing used by the crew were found.

The investigation also detected an oil slick in the area where the vessel sank, suggesting the rupture of the fuel tank. 

Submarine illustration
Submarine illustration. Credits: Shutterstock

Searches came to an end on Saturday (24)

The Indonesian Navy announced on Saturday morning (24) that the submarine's wreckage had been found and that there was no hope of finding survivors.

"According to our discoveries and the elements that come from the 'KRI Nanggala', we changed the situation of the submarine from missing to 'sunken'", declared Yudo Margono at a press conference.

During the press conference, the admiral went on to detail that the submarine must have gradually cracked, as it was sinking. This process would have happened when he was at a depth of 300 to 500 meters. 

Submarine rescue efforts

Last Friday (23), the United States sent search and rescue equipment to help find the KRI Nanggala-402.

“We are deeply saddened by the news of the loss of the Indonesian submarine and our thoughts are with the Indonesian sailors and their families. At the invitation of the Indonesian government, we are sending airborne means to assist in the search for the missing submarine, ”wrote John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, on Twitter, on Thursday (22).

KRI Nanggala-402 lost contact with the Indonesian Navy on Wednesday (21), during military exercises in the north of the island of Bali. His disappearance happened shortly after the submarine was authorized to submerge.

Rescuers had previously warned that the crew's oxygen reserves could run out at 15pm on Friday, in GMT + 7 (Saturday morning according to Brasília time).

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