Argentina’s navy has detected what could be noises from the country’s missing submarine, raising hopes the 44 crew members on board could be found alive.
Two ships reportedly picked up noises on sonar that sounded like tools being bashed against the hull of a submarine, according to a senior US Navy official familiar with the hunt for the ARA San Juan and cited by CNN today.
The news will bring fresh hope to the families of the missing crew, after Argentina had earlier said the submarine’s last known communication was to report a breakdown and signals detected over the weekend did not come from the vessel.
After reporting mechanical issues, the submarine was then asked to change course and go to Mar del Plata, according to Gabriel Galeazzi, the head of the naval base in the northeastern city, located 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Buenos Aires.
Earlier on Monday, Enrique Balbi, a spokesman for the navy, told a press conference in the capital that seven signals received by naval bases over the weekend were not attempted distress calls from the submarine, as previously hoped.
He said: ‘We’ve received the report from the company that analyzed the signals – the seven attempted calls did not come from the submarine’s satellite phone.
The ARA San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric sub, made its last contact on Wednesday.
A multinational air and sea search is under way with help from countries including Brazil, Britain, Chile, the United States and Uruguay.
Storms have complicated efforts to find the navy submarine, which had gone missing in the South Atlantic.
More than a dozen boats and aircraft from Argentina, the United States, Britain, Chile and Brazil had joined the search effort.
Authorities have mainly been scanning the sea from above, as storms have made the search difficult for boats.
The Royal Navy has deployed an ice patrol ship to help search for the missing submarine.
Britain sent the HSM Protector, a polar exploration vessel, to the southern Argentine Sea to assist in searches.
The country’s first female submarine officer, 35-year-old Eliana Krawczyk, is among the 44 crew missing in the South Atlantic for after the vessel lost contact more than 250 miles from the coast.
Britain and Argentina fought a war in 1982 over the Falklands Islands, which are called the Malvinas in Argentina.
A spokesman for the British Navy said: ‘Following a request from the Argentine government, HMS Protector has been deployed to join the search and rescue effort for the ARA San Juan.’
The US Navy ordered its Undersea Rescue Command based in San Diego, California, to deploy to Argentina to support the search for the submarine.
A multi-national rescue operation has been launched to find Ms Krawczyk and her crewmates, including an aircraft from NASA.
President Mauricio Macri said in a tweet that the country will use ‘all resources national and international that are necessary to find the submarine’.
Relatives of the crew members gathered at the Mar del Plata Naval Base in the hopes of hearing news about their loved ones.
‘We feel anguish. We are reserved but will not lose our hope that they will return,’ Marcela Moyano, wife of machinist Hernan Rodriguez, told television network TN.
‘We’re very worried, we have little news, we’re waiting for communication,’ said Eduardo Krawczyk, weapons officer Ms Krawczyk,the only woman on board the German-built submarine.
From the Vatican, Argentine Pope Francis said he was making ‘fervent prayers’ for the crew.
The TR-1700 class diesel electric submarine had been returning from a routine mission to Ushuaia near the southernmost tip of South America, to its base at Mar del Plata, around 240 miles south of Buenos Aires.
The San Juan is one of three submarines in the Argentine fleet.
The 213-foot long submarine was built in 1983 by Germany’s Thyssen Nordseewerke. However, it underwent a seven-year refit between 2007 and 2014 to extend its life by a further 30 years.
The navy believes the submarine, which left Ushuaia en route to the coastal city of Mar del Plata in Buenos Aires province, had communication difficulties that may have been caused by an electrical outage, Balbi said.
Navy protocol would call for the submarine to come to the surface once communication was lost.
He said: ‘We expect that it is on the surface.’
The German-built submarine, which uses diesel-electric propulsion, was inaugurated in 1983, making it the newest of the three submarines in the navy’s fleet, according to the navy.