Argentina’s navy has revealed a sound detected during the search for a missing submarine is consistent with an explosion, in the hunt for the vessel and its crew members.
Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said an “abnormal, singular, short, violent, non-nuclear event” had been detected in the south Atlantic, the “hydro-acoustic anomaly” produced just hours after the Navy lost contact with the ARA San Juan on November 15.
Ships and planes returned on Wednesday to a search area to check on the noise that experts said could provide a clue to the submarine’s location.
Balbi said there was no sign the explosion might have been linked to an attack on the vessel.
However, experts worry its crew might have only had enough oxygen to last seven to 10 days, even if the submarine was intact.
Balbi said on Wednesday that Argentine navy ships as well as a United States P-8 Poseidon aircraft and Brazilian air force plane would return to the area to investigate the sound.
The San Juan went missing as it was sailing from the extreme southern port of Ushuaia to the city of Mar del Plata, about 402 kilometres southeast of Buenos Aires.
More than a dozen airplanes and ships are searching for the submarine despite stormy weather. Teams are searching an area nearly 300,000 square kilometres.
Argentina’s centre-right president Mauricio Macri has criticised naval commanders over their handling of the crisis.
According to the Infobae website, Macri’s defence minster Oscar Aguad only learned the submarine was missing after he read about it in the press.
Macri had promised to increase the military budget after entering office in 2016.
“I know the state has ignored you for years, abandoned you, and that’s created problems in terms of budget, equipment and infrastructure,” he said at an Army Day ceremony in June 2016, promising to improve military salaries and renew armaments.
Authorities said the level of maintenance, not the age, was what mattered after submarine received a midlife upgrade in 2009.
However, families of the 44 missing crew members reacted with grief and anger to the possibility of an explosion.
“They sent a piece of shit out to navigate,” said Itati Leguizamon, the wife of the San Juan’s sonar operator German Suarez.
“We don’t believe they didn’t know from before.”
She said other relatives were also furious.
“They’re tearing up everything in there,” Itati Leguizamon said.
“How would you react if you react if you were lied to?”