Families of crew lost in the Argentine ARA San Juan submarine have been told their loved ones “are all dead” after an explosion on the day the vessel disappeared, according to reports. Family members claimed on Thursday they had already received phone calls from Navy officials telling them the entire crew had perished in a blast, believed to have taken place between 180m and 900m below the surface.
Officially, Argentina's Navy is refusing to speculate on the fate of the sub's 44 crew members and have vowed to continue the search for the stricken vessel. But relatives have reacted angrily accusing the Argentine Navy of a cover-up after it was forced on Thursday to confirm there had been a violent explosion where the vessel would have been just hours after its last transmission.
The noise consistent with an explosion was recorded by two international agencies last Wednesday morning.
Luiz Tagliapietro, the father of Damian, who was on the submarine, claimed a Navy official phoned him to break the news that his son was dead. Asked if the 43 men and one woman on board had died, he said: Yes, yes, yes, yes. One hundred per cent. My son's boss confirmed that they are all dead. There's no human being who survives that.
Itati Leguizamon, whose husband German Oscar Suarez was on board, branded the Navy perverse bastards for allowing family members to continue to believe their loved ones could be found alive. She said: According to them, they only found out about the explosion now, but who is so stupid to believe that?
Wednesday night the Argentine Navy confirmed that the US Navy had picked up a hydro-acoustic anomaly under the sea about 11am last Wednesday just 30 nautical miles north of the stricken sub's last reported position.
Spokesman Enrique Balbi refused to speculate on what the noise could have been, but said ships were on their way to the site 725km off Argentina's coast.
Balbi said an anomalous, singular, short, violent and non-nuclear event, consistent with an explosion was heard in the area where the vessel would have been sailing last week.
It was recorded by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-BanTreaty Organisation, which uses a network of hydroacoustic seismic stations to monitor for possible nuclear tests.
The two separate reports point to the same time and almost the same place, Balbi said.
We do not know the cause [so] we will continue the search, until we find concrete evidence of where the submarine and our 44 crew members are. We will not draw up any hypothesis about what happened until we have the conclusive evidence to affirm it.
The news provoked outrage among desperate family members of the missing sailors who have been camped at the naval base in Mar de Plata hoping their loved ones will be found safe. Now eight days since the submarine disappeared, their hope has turned to anger and despair amid reports oxygen supplies would have run out if there was no hull breach.
The Russian defense ministry said on Thursday it had sent oceanographic research vessel, Yantar, which has been working off the western coast of Africa. The ship is equipped with two deep-water submersibles which allow exploratory searches at a depth of up to 6000m, Russian news agencies said.
The Yantar is a new ship that joined the Russian navy's Northern Fleet in 2015.
The submarine, which left Ushuaia in Argentina and was heading to the naval base in Mar del Plata, was last heard from as it sailed through the San Jorge Gulf, 725km from the Argentine coast on November 15.
The 34-year-old German-built submarine had flagged a breakdown in its batteries and was ordered to return to port.
The sub's disappearance has gripped the nation. President Mauricio Macri has visited and prayed with relatives, who have had to deal with a number of false hopes since the search began on November 16.
From the Vatican, Argentine Pope Francis said he was making fervent prayers for the crew, and prayers have also come from legendary footballer Diego Maradona. I want to send strength and hope to all the relatives of the crew of the ARA San Juan submarine,' Maradona wrote on his official Instagram account.
I think it's great that we are receiving help from other countries with better technology. And, although I wonder about those responsible for this situation, I think that today the most important thing is to rescue our boys.”