Argentina is unsure if signals came from missing submarine

2017-11-20 12:51
An Argentine flag reading in Spanish "Come on marines, the great naval family and the Argentines are with you and pray for you" hangs from the fence at the Navel base in Mar del Plata. (Vicente Robles, AP)

An Argentine flag reading in Spanish "Come on marines, the great naval family and the Argentines are with you and pray for you" hangs from the fence at the Navel base in Mar del Plata. (Vicente Robles, AP)

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Buenos Aires - Argentina's navy could not confirm on Sunday if seven brief satellite calls received a day earlier were from a lost submarine with 44 crew members on board.

"We do not have clear evidence that (the calls) have come from that unit," said Adm. Gabriel Gonzalez, commander of the Mar del Plata Naval Base. "We are analysing more closely to reliably determine that they were not calls coming from the submarine."

Gonzalez said the navy had intensified an aerial hunt off the country's southern Atlantic coast after adverse weather conditions spurred waves up to 8 metres and made a maritime search difficult.

Navy spokesperson Enrique Balbi said the low-frequency satellite signals received on Saturday lasted a "few seconds," but had not connected with a base, partly due to inclement weather. The communication attempts were originally thought to indicate that the crew was trying to re-establish contact.

Rescue help

On Sunday, search units were largely relying on information gathered from a British polar exploration vessel, the HMS Protector, which was equipped with an underwater search probe and was following the path taken by the submarine, the ARA San Juan.

"Our thoughts remain with the crew of the ARA San Juan and their families at this time," said HMS Protector Cmdr. Angus Essenhigh, according to a statement from Britain's Royal Navy.

The gesture has attracted attention since the nations fought a bloody war in 1982 after Argentine troops invaded the Falklands Islands.

Gonzalez also confirmed that the US Navy's Undersea Rescue Command had been deployed to the search area, along with aircraft from Argentina, Brazil and the US, and 11 surface vessels.

Among the 44 crew members is Eliana Krawczyk, the first female submarine officer in Argentina.

Authorities last had contact with the German-built, diesel-electric sub on Wednesday as it was sailing from the extreme southern port of Ushuaia to Mar del Plata.

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