Ara San Juan: Argentina Halts Rescue Mission for 44 Crew Members of Missing Submarine

ARA San Juan Argentina Military Submarine
The Argentine military submarine ARA San Juan and crew are seen as they leave the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina June 2, 2014. Picture taken on June 2, 2014. Argentine Navy/Reuters

Argentina has given up on rescuing 44 crew members on a submarine that disappeared 15 days ago, though it will continue the search for the vessel with international assistance, a navy spokesman said on Thursday, November 30.

The ARA San Juan had a seven-day supply of air when it reported its last position on November 15. The crew had been ordered to return to a naval base in Mar del Plata after reporting water had entered the vessel through its snorkel.

"More than double the number of days have passed where it would have been possible to rescue the crew," navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told a news conference. "We will continue the search... there will not be people saved."

Some family members criticized the government for giving up, and for its means of communicating.

Missing Argentine submarine
A relative of missing Argentine submarine crew member Celso Oscar Vallejos kneels down to pray, outside Argentina's Navy base in Mar del Plata, on the Atlantic coast south of Buenos Aires, on November 25, 2017. Argentina gave up on rescuing the 44 crew members on November 30. ALFONSINA TAIN/AFP/Getty Images

Luis Tagliapietra, whose son was on the submarine, said some 12 families had found out the rescue mission was abandoned from the televised news conference.

He also told television channel TN the government had been too slow to say the water entering the sub caused it to short circuit, which the navy confirmed on Monday, 27 November.

The navy had said earlier, on November 23, that international organizations detected a noise that could have been the submarine's implosion the same day contact was lost.

"I want to know what happened and I do not believe in any of the official hypotheses," Tagliapietra said, his voice cracking up. "I have no words for it."

Some families had held out hope for a miracle and were organizing prayer groups together.

Balbi said 28 ships, nine planes and 4,000 people from 18 countries were involved in the search covering 557,000 nautical miles, more including radar monitoring.

"Despite the magnitude of our search it has not been possible to find the submarine," he said.