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Satellite Pings Bring Hope to Argentina's Search for Missing Submarine; Tense Wait for 44 Families

The entire search area has been scoured by ships and aircraft, despite storm conditions that complicated the effort, Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said on Saturday.

AFP

Updated:November 19, 2017, 10:43 AM IST
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Satellite Pings Bring Hope to Argentina's Search for Missing Submarine; Tense Wait for 44 Families
The Argentine military submarine ARA San Juan and crew are seen leaving the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina on June 2, 2014. [Picture taken on June 2, 2014] (Image: Reuters)
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Buenos Aires: Hopes of finding survivors have revived after Argentina's navy received what could be distress calls from a missing submarine with 44 crew members aboard.

There had been no contact with the ARA San Juan since early Wednesday, according to the navy, prompting Buenos Aires to launch an air and sea search with help from countries, including Brazil, Britain, Chile and the United States.

The entire search area has been scoured by ships and aircraft, despite storm conditions that complicated the effort, Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said on Saturday.

Yet, finally seven satellite-transmitted signals believed to be part of the vessel trying to resume contact were detected, the Defence Ministry said.

With the help of US satellite communication experts, the signals were detected at 10:52 am (local time) and 3:42 pm (local time) on various naval bases, but did not lock in, thus preventing a full connection.

"Right now, we are working to pinpoint the exact location of what is emitting the signals," presuming that it could be the missing sub, the ministry said.

Brazil, Britain, Chile, the United States and Uruguay took part in the aerial side of the search, and Washington said it was sending rescue help.

The California-based Undersea Rescue Command was deploying two independent rescue assets -- including a pressurised rescue module -- to help in the hunt for the missing sub.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on his Twitter account that "we will do what is necessary to find the submarine as soon as possible."

All land communications bases along the coast were ordered to be scanning for any followup, as family members of the missing waited nervously in Mar del Plata.

Claudio Rodriguez, whose brother Hernan is aboard, was hopeful and thought the vessel would be found afloat, if the satellite signals were able to be sent.

"They've got to be afloat. Thank God," Rodriguez stressed.

"That gives us hope, because we knew that if they were down below, they would be screwed" he told TN news from Mendoza.

The navy has not ruled out any hypothesis, a spokesman said. The most commonly given is that a power short may have unexpectedly cut off the vessel's communications.

TR-1700 class diesel electric submarine had been returning from a routine mission to Ushuaia near the southernmost tip of South America, to its base at Mar del Plata, around 400 km south of Buenos Aires.

Among those on board is Argentina's first female submarine officer, 35-year-old weapons officer Eliana Krawczyk.

The San Juan is one of three submarines in the Argentine fleet. Sixty-five metres (213 feet) long and seven metres (23 feet) wide, it was built by Germany's Thyssen Nordseewerke and launched in 1983.

It underwent a re-fit between 2007 and 2014 to extend its usefulness by some 30 years.


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