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Lost submarine in Indonesia leaves rescuers frantic as 53 on board near end of oxygen

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Rescue efforts continue for a missing Indonesian submarine with 53 crew aboard, believed sunk in deep water about 60 miles north of Bali.

Naval authorities said the sub’s oxygen would be depleted by Saturday. The extreme depth may make recovery impossible, authorities said.

The Associated Press reported that Indonesia’s navy continues to search as a sonar-equipped Australian warship arrived Friday to help. The U.S. is sending “airborne assets” to assist, Reuters said. 

The KRI Nanggala-402 sub is thought to be 2,000 to 2,300 feet deep, which threatens to crush the vessel.

Ahn Guk-hyeon, an official from South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, told the AP that the collapse depth for the submarine was 200 meters (656 feet) when Daewoo refitted the vessel’s internal structures and systems in 2009-2012.

The submarine disappeared early Wednesday morning during a military exercise. An oil spill near its last position could indicate fuel tank damage, or be a signal from the sub’s crew, the Indonesian navy said.

The German-made submarine was conducting a torpedo drill when contact was lost. It’s believed to be in the Bali Strait, a water channel between Bali and Java.

Frank Owen, secretary of the Submarine Institute of Australia, said the submarine could be at too great a depth for a rescue team to operate.

Owen, a former submariner who developed an Australian submarine rescue system, said the Indonesian vessel was not fitted with a rescue seat around an escape hatch designed for underwater rescues. He said a rescue submarine would make a waterproof connection to a disabled submarine with a so-called skirt fitted over the rescue seat so the hatch can be opened without the disabled submarine filling with water.

Twenty-one warships, three submarines, and five airplanes are searching for the sub, CNN reported. Singapore, Malaysia and India have each sent submarine rescue ships, according to the United States Naval Institute.

Navies from the U.S., Australia, France, and Germany have offered to assist.

The KRI Nanggala-402 sub is one of five operated by the Indonesian navy. It was built in 1977 by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, a German company. Indonesia bought it in 1981.

SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Associated Press; Reuters

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