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Submarine found year after sinking

China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-19 09:13
Relatives of crew members of the ARA San Juan submarine demonstrate outside the navy base in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires province, Argentina, on Saturday. DIEGO IZQUIERDO/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Relatives hope for return of loved ones following discovery of wreck

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina - The crushed wreck of an Argentine submarine has been located one year after it vanished into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean with 44 crew members, in the country's worst naval disaster in decades.

Experts say raising the ARA San Juan would be an enormous undertaking costing a billion dollars or more. Defense Minister Oscar Aguad said Argentina had "no means" to do so.

The navy located the submarine at a depth of more than 800 meters, the navy tweeted, confirming the vessel had imploded, which experts said was likely linked to a battery problem.

Relatives of the dead sailors were seen hugging each other, holding their heads in despair and crying inconsolably.

The Seabed Constructor, a ship owned by US search firm Ocean Infinity, made the discovery on Friday, one day after the first anniversary of the disappearance.

The ship had set out in September in the latest attempt to find the San Juan, whose disappearance cost the navy's top officer his job.

The navy lost contact with the submarine on Nov 15, 2017, about 450 kilometers from the coast while it was traveling northward from Ushuaia, at Argentina's southern tip.

Admiral Jose Villan, the navy's new top commander, said that the rough terrain on the ocean floor made it difficult for search vessels, which had already trawled the site, to find the sub.

Pieces that were 11, 13 and 30 meters long were spotted in a "moon-like zone with craters and canyons", said Navy Captain Enrique Balbi, adding that the hull had been "crushed inwards".

Aguad met earlier with family members to show photos taken by an underwater robot. They showed a propeller, the sub's bow with torpedo-launching tubes and an upper section of the vessel lying on the ocean floor.

"We are all destroyed here," said Yolanda Mendiola, the mother of crewman Leandro Cisneros, 28.

"I still had hopes that they could be alive," Luis Niz, the father of a missing sailor, told reporters, even though President Mauricio Macri's government had declared two weeks after the sub's disappearance that there could be no survivors.

A small group of family members protested outside the naval base on Saturday, holding a banner emblazoned with the number "44" - for the lost crew members. Another banner declared,"44 Hearts of Steel - Never Forget!"

Somber ceremony

Lawyer Sonia Krescher questioned the timing of the sub's discovery, saying it was "weird" coming after the oneyear anniversary of its loss.

"We are going to ask them to refloat it," she said. "We need to see the bodies and know what happened."

Cecila Kaufmann, who lost her husband Luis Leiva, added: "now that they've found it, they need to give us back our loved ones".

The discovery came the day after a somber ceremony, attended by Macri, at the San Juan's Mar del Plata base.

Macri said the "whole truth" about what happened can now be examined. But he made no reference to whether there would be an attempt to raise the wreck.

Agence France - presse

 

 

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