Damages suffered by the Argentine icebreaker Almirante Irizar when fire broke out on board, are far more serious than originally announced and full repairs could take more than the estimated two years revealed this week the Buenos Aires press.
Although when the vessel finally was towed back to Puerto Belgrano Captain Guillermo Tarapow, optimistically declared that "85% of the vessel had been saved", the fact is that not only the generator room, --where the fire started--, and the engine room were razed but it now appears the labs, refrigerated samples, scientific research records, sophisticated equipment and even experts notebooks were a total loss. According to the Buenos Aires press, Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Daniel Oscar Camponovo presided over an emergency meeting with delegates from the different offices involved in Argentina's Antarctic operations and following a primary assessment of the situation it was agreed that in the most optimistic of scenarios, "it will take over two years to have the Irizar back in action". "We're facing a non declared emergency situation", said General Camponovo. The icebreaker is the backbone of Argentina's Antarctic operations and a very efficient logistics tool in supplying the country's several bases and stations, including some which can only be reached breaking through the ice casket. Almirante Irizar's generator room caught fire in mid April, in the South Atlantic when the vessel was on her closing trip of the 2006/07 Antarctic campaign. Brazil and Britain have offered their Antarctic vessels to help Argentina with its operations in the coming summer campaign (2007/08). The Buenos Aires press further revealed that the helicopter hangar on the Irizar was also trapped by fire and spares parts plus an additional turbine for the Sea King helicopter have been lost, "leaving the Argentine Navy with virtually an only Sea King and almost no spares". Julio César Urien, CEO of the Rio Santiago dry docks, (one of the possible places to rebuild the Irizar) is quoted by the press saying that the overall job is "relatively simple" because the hull and superstructure have been saved, but the rest, "heart and brains" of the vessel have to be assembled "brand new from scratch".