Scavengers are looting the wreck of an Australian World War II navy ship which may still contain the remains of the hundreds of sailors aboard when it sunk of the Indonesian coast. Claims scrap merchants were stripping the HMAS Perth first aired in September and have since been investigated by Defence

"Following some very good comparative analysis of 2009 and 2013 imagery of the wreck ... Navy was convinced that the allegations of systematic salvage had some basis," Defence said in a statement. "Further allegations also indicated that salvage activity may be occurring on British, Dutch and American warship wrecks throughout the South East Asian region." A total of 686 people were aboard HMAS Perth when it was sunk in the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java by Japanese torpedoes in 1942 and at least 355 Australians went down with it. A professional diver on Friday told the ABC there were signs of salvage activity on the wreck. "Compared to previous trips I had made, the extent of commercial-scale salvaging was immediately obvious," he said.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Ray Griggs has written to the head of the Indonesian Navy about the scavenging and government staff are working with Indonesian officials, Defence said. The federal government is being urged to claim HMAS Perth as a war grave. This would enable the government to protect it from further damage, but Australia and Indonesia are yet to ratify the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, a treaty obliging the preservation of such sites. The last surviving officer of HMAS Perth, Gavin Campbell, said he was appalled by reports of the salvaging.

"The remains of the crew are still there and should be treated as a war grave ... If the navy and the government have been aware of it, shame on them for not taking action to stop it," the 92-year-old told the ABC.

Source : NineMsn