Navy Says Missing Argentine Submarine Crew May Still be Alive in ‘Extreme Survival Situation’

Searchers for an Argentine submarine missing since November 15 battled gale-force South Atlantic winds on Sunday while a navy spokesman held out hope the 44 crew members may still be alive in an “extreme survival situation”.

The ARA San Juan had only a seven-day supply of air when it reported its last position, according to officials.

Relatives of crew members focused on the possibility the submarine may have been able to rise high enough in the ocean to refill its oxygen tanks at some point after its disappearance. Argentina’s official weather service ordered an alert for “intense winds of between 50 and 90 kilometres per hour, with gusts,” in Chubut province, the location from which search vessels were sailing.

“The bad weather conditions really are adverse,” navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told a news conference.

‘Chance that they could still be in an extreme survival situation’

Asked by a reporter about the chances the crew may still be alive, Mr Balbi left that as a possibility.

“We’ve been searching for 11 days but that does not remove the chance that they could still be in an extreme survival situation,” Mr Balbi said.

The US Navy’s Undersea Rescue Command sent a ship from Chubut’s port Comodoro Rivadavia on Sunday local time, outfitted with a remotely operated mini-sub to be used as a rescue vehicle if the San Juan is found. The ship was expected to reach the search zone some 430 kilometres off Argentina’s southern coast by Monday afternoon, local time.

A sudden, violent sound detected underwater near the last known position of the 65-meter-long diesel-electric submarine suggested it might have imploded on the morning of November 15, after reporting an electrical problem and being ordered back to base.

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