Time running out for Argentine submarine missing in south Atlantic
A woman adds her message to other pleas for the rescue of the 44 crew of the missing Argentine submarine outside its base in Mar del Plata
Ten countries have joined one of the largest sea rescue efforts in modern times to search for an Argentine military submarine with 44 sailors on board that went missing in the south Atlantic a week ago.
There was hope early yesterday when a white emergency flare was spotted by a US aircraft. However, Argentina’s navy said it was unlikely to be from the vessel.
Enrique Balbi, a spokesman for the navy, said the German-built San Juan carries red and green flares, but authorities were still trying to identify the origin of the signal. Mr Balbi also said a liferaft found in the search area did not belong to the submarine.
The hunt began on Friday with a small group of ships and military aircraft. It has grown to involve a fleet of 49 as authorities race to find the vessel, which is running out of oxygen. She had about a week’s worth left when she went missing.
The Royal Navy has sent an underwater search team, part of the Submarine Parachute Assistance Group, to the Falkland Islands. Aircraft from Colombia, Germany and Peru arrived to join Brazil, Britain, Chile, France, South Africa, Uruguay and the US in helping Argentina to find the vessel.
Storms off Argentina’s Patagonian coast had hampered the hunt but more favourable weather raised hopes that the crew of the San Juan would be found in time. Meteorologists
expected waves of up to 2m (6ft 6in) in the search area, compared with 8m (26ft) at the weekend.
The submarine went missing with what officials have described as electrical faults. The navy admitted on Monday that the crew had reported short circuits in the boat’s batteries a week ago and she was told to return to base in Mar del Plata. It was the first confirmation that the authorities had known that the submarine was experiencing a malfunction before she disappeared 268 miles off Argentina.
Mr Balbi said this type of fault was considered routine and the crew was reported safe a week ago.
Rescue services have since suffered disappointments after sounds picked up by radar and coming from the area where rescuers believe the submarine ran into trouble, were found to be false alarms.
The San Juan, according to Argentina’s La Nación newspaper, had a refit in 2008 that was expected to extend her life for 30 years. She was returning from Ushuaia, Argentina’s southernmost port, when contact was lost north of the Falkland Islands.
President Macri of Argentina travelled to the submarine’s base on Monday. He has stayed there to reassure relatives of the missing crew that the government was sparing no effort to bring them home.