Rescuers battle waves, wind in hunt for missing Argentine sub
MAR DEL PLATA – Agence France-Presse
A multinational armada of aircraft and vessels battled high winds and raging seas on Nov. 19 as they intensified their search for a missing Argentine submarine, after apparent attempted distress calls raised hopes the 44 crew members may still be alive.
There has been no contact with the ARA San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric sub, since early Nov. 10.
An air and sea search is under way with help from countries including Brazil, Britain, Chile, the United States and Uruguay.
Hopes of finding survivors were revived when the navy said on Nov. 18 that its bases had received seven satellite calls attributed to the submersible.
The signals were received at 10:52 am (1352 GMT) and 3:42 pm (1842 GMT), but they did not lock in, thus preventing a full connection.
However, the navy was unable to confirm that those calls originated from the submarine.
"The communications are so short and the signal so low," Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said, later adding the military has yet to have contact with or detect radar from the sub.
The calls revived hopes that the submarine has surfaced, but a powerful storm that has whipped up waves reaching seven meters in height has made geolocation difficult, officials said.
Balbi said weather conditions were not expected to improve before Nov. 21.
Despite the bad weather, "10 aircraft, both domestic and foreign, are in a search rotation 24 hours a day, each in a different area," he said.
There is a feeling of "cautious enthusiasm," naval expert Fernando Morales told C5N television.
He said the attempt to use a satellite phone indicates that "the submarine had to emerge to a depth that allowed the call."
The last regular communication with the San Juan was on early Nov. 10, when the submarine was 430 kilometers off Argentina's coast in the Gulf of San Jorge.
Rescuers are focusing on an ocean patch about 300 kilometers in diameter, radiating from the last point of contact.