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Defence

Argentina abandons hope of finding submarine crew alive, ending rescue phase of search

The decision comes more than two weeks after the ARA San Juan vanished

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 1:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 1:53pm

The Argentinian navy said Thursday it had stopped searching for survivors on board the missing submarine ARA San Juan, though it will continue looking for the remains of the vessel.

The navy saw no more hope of finding the crew alive, the web site Infobae said.

A massive international rescue mission had been mounted for the ARA San Juan since it disappeared on November 15 while travelling from the southern port of Ushuaia to its base at Mar del Plata.

“We did not find any evidence of the shipwreck in the areas that were explored,” navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said at the navy’s headquarters in Buenos Aires.

“It has not been possible to locate the submarine, and there will be no rescue of people,” he added.

The search involving 13 countries will now focus on scouring the seabed for the vessel, Balbi said.

Family members of the crew criticised the navy’s decision.

“It destroyed the minimal hope that I had,” Luis Tagliapietra, father of one of the crew members, told the broadcaster TN.

“I don’t understand this arbitrary and unfair decision,” he added.

The ARA San Juan reported an incipient fire in its batteries three hours before it disappeared. The navy says the fire caused no flames and was put out.

The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, or CTBTO, and US data have reported an event consistent with an explosion along the submarine’s route, 425km off the coast and 1,300km south of Buenos Aires.

The navy has downplayed a report by the newspaper La Nacion that there were irregularities in a battery purchase when the submarine, which started operating in 1985, was repaired between 2008 and 2014.

“I want to know the truth about what happened. I don’t believe any of the official hypotheses, because they are lying to us,” Tagliapietra said.

The crew only had oxygen reserves to last for about one week.

The government has pledged a thorough investigation once the search for the ARA San Juan has concluded.