Jumat, 30 April 2021

India ravaged by record-breaking COVID-19 surge as doctors warn of 'impossibly bad' situation - ABC News

After suffering fever for several days, Dinesh Singh knew his COVID-19 symptoms were entering deadly territory.

His oxygen saturation was plummeting, and his breathing became increasingly laboured.

The 65-year-old lived in a remote Indian village in Uttar Pradesh and the closest city, where chances of finding spare medical oxygen were best, was three hours away.

"We spent an entire night driving from one hospital to another hospital," his son-in-law Deepak Singh said.

The family sent out an SOS message on social media, like many others during the latest COVID-19 crisis, tagging senior bureaucrats in the city.

But after failing to attract the attention of prominent journalists, politicians or activists, the message went virtually unnoticed.

By the time the family secured an oxygen cylinder on the black market, paying three times the normal price, it was too late.

"My father-in-law should have survived," he said.

"But he died. It's painful."

Politician denies state suffering oxygen shortages

The COVID crisis that has engulfed states like Uttar Pradesh and the capital Delhi has smashed confidence in the country's frail healthcare system.

Countless residents like Dinesh Singh have been left to fend for themselves.

Phone numbers in someone's contacts can be the difference between death and recovery.

A man suffering coronavirus in hospital in India
Authorities say India's hospitals have been pushed to their limit.(

Reuters: Danish Siddiqui


"It's impossibly bad," Dr Sumit Ray, the medical superintendent at Holy Family Hospital in Delhi, said.

"It's way beyond even what the media is able to capture. Not because they don't want to. Even doctors don't realise how bad it is."

But the views of those working on the crisis frontline sit in sharp contrast with the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath.


The monk turned politician for the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, has repeatedly denied claims from hospitals that the state is suffering a shortage of liquid oxygen.

Instead, he blamed "black marketing and hoarding".

The chief minister went one step further, threatening to use the draconian National Security Act and the Gangster Act to crackdown on "anti-social elements" spreading "rumours and propaganda" about oxygen shortages, Indian newspaper The Hindu reported.

Yogi Adityanath addresses the audience
Hindu nationalist Yogi Adityanath says "people should realise that prayers from home are as acceptable as prayers offered in temple".(

Reuters: Jitendra Prakash


Journalist Arfa K Sherwani from digital publication The Wire said the threat of legal action was clear intimidation against doctors, the public and journalists to play down the overwhelming crisis.

"I think this is going to really intimidate the local media," Ms Sherwani said.

"This looming threat of legal action by the state over just about anything and everything that it doesn't consider the truth will further affect the reporting of the pandemic in the biggest Indian state.

"We've just been able to scratch the surface of what this calamity is doing."

Adding further concern is the national Epidemic Diseases Act, a colonial British law from 1897, which doctors have told the ABC prevents them from speaking out or revealing data over fears they will be accused of "fear mongering" during a time of crisis.

It's already been incited against a man in Uttar Pradesh who tweeted he needed oxygen. The tweet did not mention COVID-19.

Police later revealed the man's relative died from cardiac arrest and did not need oxygen or suffer from coronavirus. Police let the man off with a warning, stating his actions were to "create sensation and fear".

Further alarm was raised about the government silencing critics after Twitter complied with a government directive to remove dozens of tweets critical of the government and populist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while Facebook blocked the hashtag #ResignModi, a move the company later said was an error.

Narendra Modi addresses a gathering in India
A hashtag calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was briefly blocked on Facebook this week.(

Reuters: Amit Dave


External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has asked diplomats to counter the "one-sided" global media narrative, the Indian Express reported.

An article titled "Modi leads India out of lockdown and into a COVID apocalypse", which featured in The Australian but was written by The Times Asia correspondent Philip Sherwell, was publicly slammed by the Deputy High Commissioner to Australia as "slanderous", stating it undermined the government's "universally acclaimed" response to the pandemic.

Journalist Arfa K Sherwani said the "very touchy" government was treating the pandemic as a public relations issue.

"There is a trust deficit," she said.

"A huge trust deficit between the people and the government. The system has collapsed."

Rate of death could be higher than official toll

India's coronavirus surge has broken records, with Friday's figures adding 386,452 confirmed infections to the tally and 3,398 deaths.

A man walks after cremating his relative in New Delhi
India's health system is at breaking point during the latest COVID-19 wave, forcing mass cremations to take place.(

Reuters: Danish Siddiqui


India now accounts for one in four COVID-19 deaths in the world, but the numbers reported are widely believed to be under representative of the actual figures.

Medical consultant Dr Arun N Madhavan said he estimated the real rate of death would be five times higher than the official toll, but that number varied depending on the state.

"There is gross under reporting," Dr Madhavan said.

"It's happening in almost all states of India. More in some states and less in some other states."

In Delhi, one in three tests have come back positive, while in places like Kolkata and Chandrapur, the test positivity rate had almost hit 50 per cent, demonstrating the outbreak had spread far more widely than confirmed cases suggest.

Dr Madhavan said a severe lack of testing meant people were dying at home due to coronavirus but weren't being marked as COVID-19 deaths. The number of daily tests has significantly dropped as facilities buckle due to crippling demand.

Dr Madhavan also said other illnesses were being marked as the cause of death instead of COVID-19, which violates World Health Organization protocol.

A woman leans away as a man in white scrubs tries to take a nasal sample.
Indian authorities are scrambling to get medical oxygen to hospitals where COVID-19 patients are suffocating from low supplies.(

AP: Channi Anand


In Gujarat, concerns about under reporting were raised this week when medical sources told local media the number of hospital deaths were many times higher than the official toll.

Dr Madhavan said the system was being overwhelmed but politics was also a factor.

"They're asked to do that to reduce the number as much, so the state government looks good compared to other governments," he said.

"It's unfortunate because we need good data to actually see what is happening."

A large crowd of people queue untidily outside a building.
As India faces a devastating surge of new coronavirus infections overwhelming the healthcare system, people are turning to desperate measures to keep loved ones alive.(



India's Health Minister has said the country has the lowest death rate in the world, and denied the country suffers from an oxygen shortage.

While India's relative death rate has been lower than many western countries, doctors have argued that is most likely due to the average age being younger.

Dr Ray said there was a "political compulsion to underplay" the horrors unfolding, and that the death rate was only likely to increase as the hospitals remain beyond capacity for longer, denying more vulnerable people access.

"We are being overwhelmed by the numbers," he said.

"Even the best healthcare systems in the world cannot deal with these numbers."

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2021-04-30 20:27:02Z

India's COVID patients told to go to army hospitals as country hit by more shortages and record cases - ABC News

India's coronavirus cases have climbed again, prompting the army to open up its hospitals in a desperate bid to control a massive humanitarian crisis created by an acute shortage of beds, medicines and oxygen.

With 386,452 new cases in the past day, India now has reported more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the United States.

The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330.

Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it is unclear by how much.

Battling to find hospital beds, distraught people are flooding social media and messaging apps with pleas for oxygen, medicines and room in intensive care units.

India's army chief MM Naravane met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to discuss the crisis.

Mr Naravane said the sick can approach their nearest army hospitals for help.

India hits daily global record for one week 

Rows of funeral pyres of covid victims burn in a patch of land next to a road that's being used for mass cremations
Funeral pyres of COVID-19 victims are being burned in a lot that's been converted into a crematorium in New Delhi.(



Troops were also assisting with imported oxygen tankers and vehicles where specialised skills are required, a government statement said.

India has set a daily global record for more than a week with an average of nearly 350,000 infections.

Daily deaths have nearly tripled in the past three weeks, reflecting the intensity of the latest surge.

In the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, a school teachers' organisation said more than 550 members died after they were infected with COVID-19 while helping to conduct local council elections this month, the Times of India newspaper reported.

Dozens of people crowd a busy marketplace in India. Some people are wearing face masks.
India is one of the world's biggest producers of vaccines.(

Reuters: Niharika Kulkarni


Experts have blamed the surge on new, more contagious virus variants and mass public gatherings such as political rallies and religious events that were allowed to continue.

On Thursday, millions voted in state elections in West Bengal with little or no regard to social distancing.

In the southern state of Karnataka, Revenue Minister R Ashoka said nearly 2,000 coronavirus patients under home care have switched off their phones and cannot be traced.

Police were trying to track them as they might be seeking hospitalisation on their own, he said.

In central Madhya Pradesh state, three villages in Balaghat district have pooled money to convert buildings into COVID-19 care centres.

They have purchased oxygen concentrators and started admitting patients. Government doctors are visiting the facilities twice a day.

Aid from more than 40 countries being sent 

India plans to step up a faltering vaccination drive by allowing all adults 18 and older to get their jabs from Saturday. It has so far administered 150 million vaccine doses, according to the Health Ministry.

Since January, nearly 10 per cent of Indians have received one dose, but only around 1.5 per cent  have received both, though India is one of the world's biggest producers of vaccines.

Health Minister Harash Vardhan expressed hope that assistance being sent by over 40 countries will plug the shortage in medical supplies.

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Many stranded Australians in India are desperate to get home

Australia is sending a range of goods to help. It will send 500 ventilators, as well as 1 million surgical masks, 500,000 P2 and N95 masks, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.

More than 9,000 Australians in India want to come to Australia, with 650 of those considered vulnerable.

But many are left stranded after last week's decision by Australia's National Cabinet to reduce flights — both commercial and repatriation — from India by 30 per cent.

The US is sending more than $100 million worth of items, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests.

Japan said Friday it will send 300 ventilators and 300 oxygen concentrators in response to the Indian government request.

France, Germany, Ireland have also promised help, and Russia sent two aircraft carrying oxygen-generating equipment.

The Indian air force also airlifted oxygen containers from Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok.


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2021-04-30 05:39:15Z

He ran as a moderate, but Biden’s first 100 days were bold and progressive - Sydney Morning Herald

By Matthew Knott

Washington: When Joe Biden delivered his inaugural address outside the Capitol on a frosty day in January, he declared that America faced a “winter of peril and possibility”.

“Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now,” the US President said.

Just a fortnight earlier, furious supporters of his predecessor, Donald Trump, stormed the Capitol in a bid to overturn what they saw as a fraudulent election. The country was recording 195,000 new coronavirus infections a day, as well as 3000 deaths.

US President Joe Biden marked his 100th day in office by talking up his national investment plans in Duluth, Georgia.

US President Joe Biden marked his 100th day in office by talking up his national investment plans in Duluth, Georgia. Credit:AP

When Biden returned to the Capitol this week for his first presidential address to Congress, he painted an altogether sunnier picture.

“America is on the move again,” he said. “Turning peril into possibility, crisis into opportunity, setback into strength.”

Biden was speaking on the eve of his 100th day in office. Wary of unfavourable comparisons to predecessors like Franklin Delano Roosevelt — who established the symbolic marker in 1933 — other presidents have played down the significance of the moment.

By contrast, Biden has emphasised the threshold by using it as a deadline for several policy goals.

Big vision for the US: President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of a socially distant Congress.

Big vision for the US: President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of a socially distant Congress.Credit:AP

And he’s encouraged comparisons to Roosevelt, who took power during the depths of the Great Depression and moved quickly to enact his expansive New Deal program. Roosevelt was the only former president Biden mentioned by name in his speech to Congress this week.


Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, says there are important parallels between the two presidencies. “Both men faced big crises when they came to office and both men found opportunity in crisis,” he says.

The numbers justify Biden’s claims of a national comeback. Daily COVID-19 cases have plummeted to around 50,000, and deaths to 700 a day. So far, 234 million vaccine doses have been administered, exceeding Biden’s initial target of 100 million and subsequent goal of 200 million.

During the election campaign, Trump predicted a “Biden depression” if his opponent was elected. Instead, the S&P 500 has soared by 24 per cent since election day — the biggest stock market gains since 1953. Economic growth is expected to exceed 7 per cent this year, the fastest since 1984.

Republicans complain — justifiably — that Biden is benefiting from good timing as much as good management. The vaccination rollout and the economy were already poised to take off when he entered the White House.

The transformation in the tone of American politics, on the other hand, is directly attributable to the shift from Trump to Biden.

The new President doesn’t vent his feelings on Twitter. He doesn’t seek to antagonise his political rivals. His administration rolls out policy announcements in an orderly way. He’s appointed experienced, competent officials to senior roles.

Jobs, jobs, jobs: Vice-President Kamala Harris speaks at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, North Carolina.

Jobs, jobs, jobs: Vice-President Kamala Harris speaks at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, North Carolina. Credit:AP

The torrent of falsehoods from the White House has slowed to a relative trickle: Biden has made 67 false or misleading statements during his first 100 days, compared to 511 for Trump, according to The Washington Post’s fact-checking unit.

“With Trump, it was like having a jackhammer blasting outside your window in the middle of the night,” Alter says. “Biden is toning down the rhetoric and turning down the temperature.”

Joe Hockey, who served as Australia’s US ambassador from 2016 to 2020, says: “In the Biden administration, there is a quiet, steely resolve backed up by team discipline that was clearly absent in the Trump administration.”

But Hockey urges Australians not to be fooled by the low-key appearance of Biden’s presidency.

“He’s pursued an incredible amount of reform in a short amount of time,” he says.

“There’s an old saying that if you elect a young pope in Rome they’re very cautious because they are looking for longevity in the job. If you elect an old pope they know that time is running out and they get on with it. That’s true for Joe Biden.”

During the Democratic presidential primaries, Biden ran as a pragmatist and a moderate, rejecting his rivals’ plans for a government-run healthcare scheme and free college. In the election, he ran a small-target campaign promising a return to normality and civility after the Trump era.

Joe Biden is being compared to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Joe Biden is being compared to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Picking up two Senate seats in Georgia in early January gave Democrats control of that chamber, allowing Biden to expand his legislative goals. Both admirers and critics agree that Biden has pursued a surprisingly ambitious and progressive policy agenda since taking office.

In just 100 days, Biden has announced $7 trillion in federal spending paid for mostly by proposed tax increases on corporations and wealthy Americans. He’s also announced a goal to cut America’s carbon emissions in half over the next decade.

“This is a revolutionary presidency,” veteran Democratic strategist James Carville told MSNBC this week. “He’s trying to change the balance of power in this country.”

Former Obama administration official Van Jones said it was clear that he and other progressives had underestimated Biden’s scale of ambition. “He is chasing FDR,” Jones said on CNN. “He’s swinging for the fences.”

Biden’s biggest achievement was signing into law a $2.5 trillion COVID-19 relief package that sent stimulus cheques to more than 150 million Americans, expanded unemployment benefits and included a major increase to the child tax credit. The Urban Institute think tank estimates it will slash child poverty in half and cut the national poverty rate by a third.

Biden’s politics recall president Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.

Biden’s politics recall president Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Credit:Alamy

Biden’s relief bill alone was already twice as big as the stimulus package Barack Obama signed at the height of the Global Financial Crisis. He has since followed up with a $2.6 trillion infrastructure plan that would pour money into roads, bridges, airports, broadband and renewable energy.

This week, Biden unveiled a social policy plan, worth $2 trillion, that would create America’s first parental leave scheme, establish universal kindergarten and two years of free community college. Taken together, his plans easily represent the most dramatic expansion of the federal government’s role in American society since Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” program in the 1960s.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says President Biden can no longer be regarded as a moderate.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says President Biden can no longer be regarded as a moderate. Credit:EPA POOL

“If you were expecting steady, slow, incremental change, you’d be really struck by what you’ve seen over the past 100 days,” says William Howell, chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. “When it comes to policy, Biden has been really aggressive.”

While progressive Democrats are delighted by Biden’s boldness, Republicans are incensed.

“The bottom line tonight: if I ever hear that Joe Biden’s a moderate again, I’m going to throw up,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said following Biden’s speech to Congress.

“Because after tonight, he embraced socialism. He made Barack Obama look like Ronald Reagan.”

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell recently said: “President Biden ran as a moderate but I’m hard-pressed to think of anything at all he’s done so far that would indicate some degree of moderation.”

Despite Biden’s talk of national unity, the country’s partisan divisions remain as entrenched as ever. Not one Republican voted for his COVID-19 relief package in the House of Representatives or Senate.

Biden’s approval rating, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average, is 54 per cent. That’s 12 points higher than Trump’s at the same stage of his presidency but very much at the lower end when compared to other past presidents.

Just one in 10 Republican voters say they approve of the job Biden is doing.

Matthew Glassman, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, says an approval rating in the mid-50s is probably as good as any president can hope for in today’s hyper-partisan age. “You’re just not going to be as popular as past presidents were,” he says.

Polling on most of Biden’s policy proposals suggests they are in the mainstream of American public opinion. Some are wildly popular, like the COVID-19 relief bill, which seven in 10 Americans supported.

Glassman says it is also notable that Biden “doesn’t generate the same level of visceral partisan hatred on the right” as other prominent Democrats.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson this week announced he would no longer refer to the executive branch of government as the “Biden administration”.

Carlson’s evidence-free claim that the 78-year-old “has no active role in the government” was not intended to be flattering. But his attempt to erase Biden from the political narrative showed that the mention of his name does not provoke the same ire among conservatives as, say, Obama’s or Hillary Clinton’s.

On foreign policy, Biden has moved quickly to replace Trump’s isolationist stance with a return to multilateralism and alliance-building. He’s rejoined the World Health Organisation and the Paris Climate Accord, and is working to reform the World Trade Organisation.

Raising hopes: a woman cheers as President Joe Biden speaks during his 100th day in office.

Raising hopes: a woman cheers as President Joe Biden speaks during his 100th day in office. Credit:AP

On China policy, there is more continuity between the two administrations: Biden has maintained Trump’s tariffs and tough rhetoric, defying expectations that he would go soft on Beijing.

He moved decisively to announce a complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by September — a four-month delay from the original timeline outlined in an agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban.

The standout weakness for Biden has been immigration at the US-Mexico border.

Polls show only about a third of Americans approve of Biden’s performance on immigration and border security, lower than on any other issue.

The gun issue will remain a challenge for Biden.

The gun issue will remain a challenge for Biden.Credit:AP

“That is his Achilles heel — there’s no doubt about that,” Hockey says. “The White House would be well advised to pick up the phone and speak to some wise old Labor operatives to find out how it went for them taking a more open-door approach to the borders.”

Biden will face a big challenge in coming months to shepherd his infrastructure and social policy plans through Congress.

Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat who holds a swing vote in the Senate, has already expressed unease at the amount of spending, and demanded the White House work with Republicans to find compromise.

Other Democratic priorities — including passing gun-control measures and changing the nation’s immigration laws — appear to have next to no hope of passing the Senate.

“The first 100 days has been easy,” Glassman says, “compared to what comes next.”

Asked to grade Biden’s performance so far, Alter, Glassman and Howell all agreed on A. Only Hockey awards the President an A minus.

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2021-04-30 01:46:00Z

Kamis, 29 April 2021

Gaunt Navalny appears in court to denounce ‘naked, thieving king’ Putin - Sydney Morning Herald

By Polina Nikolskaya and Anton Zverev

Moscow: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “naked, thieving king”, looking gaunt but defiant in a courtroom video link from prison, his first public appearance since ending a hunger strike last week.

Navalny’s comments on Thursday, local time, were broadcast into a hearing in a Moscow courtroom, where he lost his appeal against a fine for defaming a World War II veteran.

Alexei Navalny looked gaunt as he appeared in court via video link from jail.

Alexei Navalny looked gaunt as he appeared in court via video link from jail.Credit:Babuskinsky District Court Press Service via AP

He faces further legal pressure, with his team saying he was hit with new criminal charges. Allies were forced to disband his network of regional campaign offices, which the authorities are seeking to ban as “extremist”.

His head shaven, Navalny said he had been taken to a bathhouse to look “decent” before the court hearing. He undid his prison uniform to reveal a T-shirt that barely hid his thin torso.

“I looked in the mirror. Of course, I’m just a dreadful skeleton,” he said. One of his lawyers said he had lost 22 kilograms since January.

Later in the hearing, Navalny, 44, went on the attack against Putin and the Russian justice system.

“I want to tell the dear court that your king is naked,” he said of Putin. “Your naked, thieving king wants to continue to rule until the end ... Another 10 years will come, a stolen decade will come.”

Addressing his wife Julia, who was in court, he said he missed her and asked her to stand so that he could look at her.

Describing how he was gradually ending his more than three-week hunger strike, he said he had eaten four spoonfuls of porridge on Wednesday. Requests for carrots and apples had not yet been granted.

One of Navalny’s lawyers said the Russian activist had lost 22 kilograms since January.

One of Navalny’s lawyers said the Russian activist had lost 22 kilograms since January.Credit:Babuskinsky District Court Press Service via AP

‘Swindlers and thieves’

Navalny is serving a 2.5-year jail sentence for parole violations on an earlier embezzlement conviction that he says was politically motivated.

He declared his hunger strike on March 31 to demand better medical care for leg and back pain. On April 23 he said he would start eating again after getting more medical care. Russia has said he is receiving the same treatment as any other prisoner and accused him of exaggerating his health needs for publicity.

Navalny rose to prominence with an anti-corruption campaign of caustic videos cataloguing the wealth of senior officials he labelled “swindlers and thieves”, and has become Putin’s fiercest political rival.

A separate court is considering whether to declare Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and his network of regional campaign offices “extremist”, which would give authorities the power to jail activists and freeze bank accounts. That court will hold its next hearing on May 17.

“Maintaining the work of Navalny’s network of headquarters in its current form is impossible,” Leonid Volkov, a Navalny ally, said in a YouTube video announcing the closure of the regional offices. Many will now function independently, he said.

In Arkhangelsk, in northern Russia, a judge handed down a 2.5-year sentence on Thursday to the former co-ordinator of one of Navalny’s campaign offices for reposting a music video which was deemed to contain pornography.

Navalny’s allies also said a new criminal case had been opened against him for allegedly setting up a non-profit organisation that infringed on the rights of citizens. This could not immediately be confirmed.

Last year, Navalny survived an attack with a nerve agent. After recovering in Germany, he was arrested on his return to Russia in January and sentenced the following month.

A large mural of Navalny on a building in St Petersburg was painted over by Russian authorities on Wednesday.

Russian media said on Thursday police were investigating, and those behind it could face up to three years in prison for vandalism.


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2021-04-29 16:59:37Z

Indonesia's sunken submarine may have been hit by a powerful force known as an internal wave - ABC News

As an Indonesian navy submarine manned by 53 men glided below the surface of the Bali Sea during a routine training exercise, it may have been hit by an invisible but powerful force that dragged them to the deep.

Indonesian navy officials suspect an internal solitary wave, known to occur in the seas around Bali, may have caused the sinking of KRI Nanggala 402, and the loss of its 53 crew.

The vessel sank to a depth of 838 metres, far beyond the reach of rescuers.

As the personal effects of crew members floated up and the oxygen supply on board slowly dwindled, officials said there was no chance anyone survived.

The question remained: What went wrong?

Many theories have been put forward but authorities now say there is evidence an underwater wave — that can exert an intense vertical pull below the sea surface — occurred in the Bali Sea around the very time the submarine disappeared last Wednesday morning.

The sub was passing through dangerous waters 

The Lombok Strait between the islands of Bali and Lombok is said to be famous for generating intense internal waves on an almost fortnightly basis.

A satellite image of the sea with several islands
NASA satellites managed to capture an image of an oceanic nonlinear internal solitary wave in the Lombok Strait in 2016. (

NASA: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC


NASA, the US space administration, said the combination of strong tidal currents, a rough ocean floor and the exchange of water between two channels — one shallow and one deep — "tend to combine about every 14 days to create an exceptionally strong tidal flow".

Indonesian navy officials believe this natural phenomenon is a more likely explanation for the submarine disaster than other theories put forward in recent days.

So what is an internal solitary wave? 

Internal waves are virtually imperceptible on the ocean's surface. But underwater, they can reach towering heights.

A satellite image of ripples on the ocean's surface near Trinidad
Internal waves can look like ripples on the ocean's surface, like this satellite image shot by NASA in 2013. (

Wikimedia Commons: NASA 


Rear Admiral Muhammad Ali, a former commander of KRI Nanggala 402, and now an assistant of planning and budgeting in the Indonesian navy, said an internal wave was effectively "a strong current which can drag the sub vertically so it would sink faster than it should."

"Our suspicion falls on natural conditions. Because an internal solitary wave occurred at that time in the north of Bali," he told Indonesian media this week.

Indeed, navy officials say images from Japan's Himawari 8 satellite, as well as European satellite Sentinel showed there were large underwater waves that coincided with the KRI Nanggala 402 sinking.

"It moved up from the bottom to the north, and there's a trench between two mountains," said Rear Admiral Iwan Isnurwanto, Commander of the Indonesian Navy Command and Staff School.

"The wave was about two nautical miles [in speed] and the volume of water was about two to four million cubic litres."

Admiral Iwan explained an internal wave could render the crew helpless in the face of nature.

"It would be nature's will," he said.

"There's a big possibility that this was what happened."

Other theories include a missile, a blackout and a weighed-down sub

Other theories about what happened to the submarine have also emerged.

Men in navy attire sit together. One points at items from a submarine in the foreground.
Debris from the submarine was found in the waters during a search operation.(

AP: Firdia Lisnawati


Some experts have suggested that the sub was hit by a missile from a foreign vessel, or even experienced a power blackout.

But naval officials say the submarine was still detected as it began its dive for the torpedo drill, and "the lights were on" — meaning there was only a small chance that an electrical blackout was to blame.

They also deny that the sub was overloaded, a theory suggested because there were 53 crew on board but only 34 beds, instead arguing that the crew were divided into three shifts and took turns to sleep.

"The sub was originally for 33 personnel, then it was modernised to comply with our need to have 50 personnel onboard," Admiral Iwan said.

Officials say the sub was also designed to carry up to eight torpedoes — weighing about one tonne each — but only had four at the time of the disaster.

Many other experts point to metal fatigue from cracks or corrosion, and the sub's age, as more likely causes. The KRI Nanggala 402 was built in 1978 and was last overhauled in 2012, almost a decade ago.

On an overcast day, you view a black submarine breaking the waterline with its periscope and radio antennas.
The 1,395-tonne KRI Nanggala-402 was built in Germany in 1978.(

Supplied: Indonesian Navy


It was due for another refit last year but this was delayed because of the pandemic.

Retired Australian Rear Admiral James Goldrick said "material failure" is the most likely explanation for the sub's loss.

"Causes could include a material or mechanical failure leading to catastrophic flooding of one or more compartments," he wrote in The Conversation this week.

"It does not take much loss of buoyancy for a submarine to lose control of its depth.

"There could have been a fire, something particularly feared by submariners in their enclosed environment. Or there could have been human error."

But short of retrieving the submarine or its parts from the seabed, investigators may never be able to determine the exact cause of the tragedy.

Will Indonesia be able to retrieve the ship from the bottom of the sea? 

The KRI Nanggala 402 lost contact with navy authorities around 4:00am on the morning of April 21, soon after it was given permission to dive for a torpedo firing exercise.

Search ships and a helicopter reported an oil slick in the area, and the smell of diesel fuel, a few hours later.

Oil slicks are seen in the ocean from an aerial view.
Oil slicks appeared on the water several hours after the sub ran into trouble. (

AP: Eric Ireng


Ships from around the world joined a massive search over several days, until tell-tale objects from the missing sub were found floating in the Bali Sea on Saturday, including prayer mats, part of the torpedo firing mechanism and oil for the sub's periscope.

An underwater scan then confirmed the sub had sunk to a depth of 838 metres and split into at least three parts — the hull, the main section and the stern.

A remotely operated camera documented the sub's final resting place on the sea floor.

Indonesian military authorities are now grappling with how — or if — they can raise the sub from such a depth, given the logistics of such a task and the huge expense.

A grainy image of submarine wreckage underwater
The submarine wreckage now lies more than 800 metres below the surface. (

AP: Indonesian Navy


Rear Admiral Goldrick said there is precedent for raising at least parts of a submarine from an even greater depth than the KRI Nanggala 402.

"The United States' 1974 mission codenamed Project Azorian involved the covert recovery [from much deeper water] of large components of a sunken Soviet missile-carrying submarine," he said, referencing the sinking of the K-129.

"Nevertheless, bringing some 1,300 tonnes of metal back to the surface from a depth of more than 800 metres remains a formidable proposition." 

The options to find the remains of the crew members

Indonesian military and marine experts say the Nanggala's depth and its rupture into several parts, means there are only a couple of feasible options for raising the sub to the surface.

Two women in blue face masks and veils cry while hugging each other
Family members of the submarine's crew want their bodies to be retrieved. (

Antara Foto via Reuters: Didik Suhartono


They could attach tubes or balloons with air or a buoyant liquid to the hull, or lift the sub with steel cables from a crane or barge, as was done with the Kursk, on which all 118 crew members died. 

But both options are expensive, logistically daunting and would require intensive use of remotely operated vehicles.

Raising the front of the sub also could also pose a risk to rescue teams by having to handle explosives from the torpedos that may also be damaged.

For now the navy is focused on recovering smaller items, using a remotely operated vehicle that can lift objects up to 150 kilograms.

Families of the 53 crew are demanding at the very least the navy bring the remains of their loved ones to the surface for proper burial, even if the submarine can't be recovered.

The sad reality, as some Indonesian media suggest, is the 53 crew will remain forever at sea on "eternal patrol".

Flowers and petals with names of the sunken KRI Nanggala-402 submarine crew members were released in the water.
Flowers and petals with names of the sunken KRI Nanggala-402 submarine crew members were released in the water.(

Reuters: Antara Foto/Fikri Yusuf


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2021-04-29 18:59:13Z