ARA San Juan latest: Argentina says sound detected in missing submarine search consistent with explosion

Experts say the vessel may only have enough oxygen to last seven to 10 days

Emily Shugerman
New York
Thursday 23 November 2017 15:37 GMT
ARA San Juan: Prayers are said for missing submarine outside Argentina's Navy base

A sound detected in the search for a missing submarine carrying 44 people is “consistent with an explosion”, Argentine officials have said.

The abnormal sound was detected in the South Atlantic ocean around the time the Argentine navy submarine sent its last communication last week.

Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi described the blast as “abnormal, singular, short, violent” and “non-nuclear”. The “hydro-acoustic anomaly,” as officials are calling it, occurred just hours after the navy lost contact with the ARA San Juan on 15 November.

“It was not a whale, and it is not a regularly occurring sound,” US navy Lieutenant Lily Hinz told Reuters.

Argentina, Brazil, and the US have sent ships and planes to investigate the noise, which occurred about 30 miles from where the submarine disappeared.

A huge sea and air hunt is being conducted for the submarine. More than a dozen countries sent planes and ships to aid in the search, which has covered some 185,000 square miles.

One of those planes was the first RAF aircraft to land in Argentina since the Falklands War. The Voyager, carrying search equipment and life support, touched down in the southern city of Comodoro Rivadavia.

Altogether, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has sent an ice patrol ship, an offshore patrol vessel, a tactical transport aircraft, and a helicopter equipped with emergency life support pods to hunt for the German-built sub. The assistance comes some 35 years after Britain and Argentina fought a war over possession of the Falkand Islands. Nearly 1,000 military personnel on both sides were killed in the 10-week conflict.

Experts say the Argentinian vessel may only have enough oxygen to last seven to 10 days from the day it disappeared more than a week ago. Families are waiting anxiously for updates at Argentina’s Mar del Plata navy base, where the submarine was headed before it vanished.

Mr Balbi said relatives of the crew have been informed of the abnormal noise. He added that the search will continue until there is more certainty as to the vessel’s fate.

The families’ hopes were momentarily raised earlier this week when a US navy search plane detected an object in the water near where the submarine was last detected. A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Argentina later confirmed the object was not connected to the ARA San Juan.

The submarine was on a routine mission from Ushuaia – a city on the southern tip of South America – back to the Mar del Plata naval base when it vanished. The vessel surfaced shortly before its disappearance to report a short circuit in its batteries, according to naval commander Gabriel Galeazzi. It was told to return immediately to the naval base.

The morning of the disappearance, however, the sub made contact again to report that the problem had been fixed. It said it would submerge and proceed directly to the base. There has been no contact since then.

“I feel like authorities let too much time pass by and decisions were taken late,” Elena Alfaro, the sister of submarine crew member Cristian Ibanez, told AP. “And yet, I still carry some hope.”

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