BUENOS AIRES – Three weeks after the submarine ARA San Juan disappeared with 44 sailors aboard, President Mauricio Macri on Wednesday asked the crewmembers’ families to remain patient and urged Argentines to respect the families’ pain.
Authorities acknowledged last Thursday that they no longer had any hope of rescuing the sailors alive.
“We will continue with the search,” Macri told reporters during a visit to San Benito in the eastern province of Entre Rios.
The most important thing now is to be “respectful” of the sorrow and pain of the families of the crew, the president said.
The San Juan was last heard from on Nov. 15, two days after the vessel left Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, for its home port of Mar del Plata, southeast of Buenos Aires.
In his daily briefing for the media, the navy spokesman also emphasized the necessity for patience as the teams searching an area of 4,000 sq. kilometers (1,544 sq. miles) for the sub – including naval and air units from other countries – do their work.
Currently, the Russian vessel Yantar is intensively searching a sector where a Chilean ship detected an unidentified object at a depth of 940 meters (3,081 ft.), Capt. Enrique Balbi said.
The spokesman also rebutted media accounts that said the San Juan placed several emergency telephone calls before the vessel went missing.
Reporters based their stories on leaked documents from a satellite telephone service provider showing transmissions from the sub.
“It’s not an attempted voice communication via satellite, they are connections the (submarine) antenna makes with the satellites ... to try to connect to the Internet that were not successful,” Balbi said.
Navy protocol requires vessels to repeat in text everything that is conveyed through voice communications, he said, explaining that the failed Internet link-ups were for the purpose of repeating what the San Juan’s skipper previously told headquarters in a call.
A review of records from service provider Iridium showed that a total of four voice transmissions were made from the San Juan, the navy spokesman said.
The first was to inform headquarters of an equipment failure that allowed water to enter the sub’s batteries; the second was to communicate the San Juan’s position; the third was for the purpose of providing additional information about the glitch; and the fourth was to report that the incident had been resolved.
Besides sharing the latest news on the search, Balbi sought to reassure the families of the crew that the navy would continue to assist them with lodging and other necessities as they remain in Mar del Plata awaiting word about the loved ones.