Indonesian president meets families of sunken submarine crew

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Jeddah – Yasmine El Tohamy – JAKARTA: The government will pay for the housing of families of the 53 fallen soldiers who died inside the submarine KRI Nanggala 402 that sunk last week north of Bali during a torpedo-launching exercise, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said on Thursday.

This is the first time Widodo has met with the grieving families, following an announcement by the military on Sunday that the German-made submarine was found on the seabed, at a depth of more than 800 meters, and broken into three pieces.

The find came after days of searching since the submarine lost contact with its base. The 44-year-old sub was about to be given clearance to fire the torpedo before dawn on Wednesday.

Widodo again expressed his condolences to the families and told them that the submariners’ military ranks had been raised posthumously and that they had been conferred with honorary state medals.

“We will build houses for you at your preferred location,” Widodo said during the gathering held at a military base in Sidoarjo, in the province of East Java.

“The state will also arrange for your children’s education so that they can go to college.”

The Indonesian Navy on Monday released a video of the submariners, including the submarine’s commander Lt. Col. Heri Oktavian, singing a rendition of a song titled “Till We Meet Again” on board the Nanggala.

The military said the footage was recorded last month as a tribute to an outgoing commander, but it has become a poignant reflection of the soldiers’ and submarine’s fate.

“Even though I am not ready to miss you, even though I am not ready to be without you, I wish you all the best,” the crewmen sang as one of them played an acoustic guitar.

Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said on Sunday that underwater visual images confirm the submarine had sunk, showing it had split into three pieces at 838 meters deep, far below the limit the hull can withstand.

“With deep sorrow, as the military chief I declare that all 53 personnel on board the submarine, the finest members of the Golden Shark Corps, died on duty in the waters north of Bali,” he said, referring to the Indonesian Navy’s submarine corps.

Among the fallen seamen was a nephew of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, 2nd Lt. Rhesa Tri Sigar.

Subianto posted on Monday a black and white photo of a smiling Sigar wearing his uniform on his official Instagram account, with a caption that paid tribute to his nephew, whom he described to have “perished for the Red and White,” referring to the colors of Indonesia’s national flag.

Subianto, himself a retired three-star army general, said the young sailor was a son of his maternal cousin, Lt. Col. Godfried Sigar, who died also on duty in June 1998 during an operation in East Timor when the former Portuguese colony was still occupied by Indonesia.

An underwater image of the submarine’s rear vertical rudder taken by Singapore’s remotely operated vehicle, which took part in the international search efforts, featured a timestamp that showed it was taken at 838 meters deep. Another photo of a torn, floating escape suit had a timestamp showing it was captured at 840 meters deep.

In another reflection of the crewmen’s fate, Oktavian posted a clip on his Instagram account from November last year of his participation in a submarine escape training exercise, showing two divers watching a seaman emerge from a hull wearing the bright orange escape suit.

“If you don’t read about this on the news, then we’re fine. But if you find it on the news, please pray for us,” Oktavian wrote in the caption.

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