Ten days after the last sign of life issued by the Argentine submarine San Juan , the research was futile despite large means deployed to find the submarine and its 44 crew members.
This weekend, the most unexpected information concerns three submariners who miraculously escaped the tragedy.
Humberto Vilte was saved thanks to his sick mother. To get to his bedside in the province of Jujuy, in northern Argentina, he obtained permission. After the first part of the mission, he left the San Juan in Ushuaia.
A communication technician had to travel from San Juan to Ushuaia to Peru for a work mission.
A third, Adrian Rothlisberger, was exempted from a mission on the San Juan as he was preparing to embark because he had to finalize the purchase of his house, usually a long and complicated procedure in Argentina.
“We could rejoice, because it’s a miracle, but we put ourselves in the shoes of other families, we know he could have been one of the 44,” Adrian Rothlisberger’s mother Sandra Álvarez said.
Officially, the Navy refuses to declare that there is no chance of finding survivors. But experts and families have lost hope since it announced Thursday that an explosion had occurred in the perimeter where the submarine was.
“We are focused on detecting the submarine. We have no clue, despite all the efforts, “regrets the spokesman of the navy, Enrique Balbi.
The research is taking place in an area of the South Atlantic, around the estimated position of the explosion, 400 km from the Argentine coast. Thirteen countries in total participate.
With probes, sonars and radars, seven ships comb the seabed from 200 meters in the west to 1000 meters in the east, said Saturday the spokesman of the Argentine Navy, Captain Enrique Balbi.
In the depths
Beyond 600 meters, the German-made diesel-powered TR-1700 would break up under pressure, experts say.
“For now, we have not found anything on the surface or under water. We reject the hypothesis that it is on the surface, because of research efforts, “said Captain Balbi.
Ignoring the expert opinion that there will be no survivors, the US military still hopes to save lives.
In the port of Comodoro Rivadavia, they built a vessel of the oil company Total to be able to house a remote controlled submersible that can descend to 600 meters deep. It could come into action at the beginning of the week.
Russia has mobilized an even more sophisticated submarine, capable of diving to 6000 meters to participate in research and a possible rescue operation. It will be operational from early December.
“The best technology in the world has been mobilized for research,” according to naval expert Horacio Tettati.
In front of the naval base of Mar del Plata, people from the port city came to pray to show their support to the families, the 44. The day before, a hundred faithful had organized a religious procession to the base.
Most of the families on the spot since the announcement of the disappearance left the base of Mar del Plata. Some of them, coming from distant provinces, waited in the base for the location of the submersible.
“We will stay here all the way,” says Zulma Sandoval, Celso Vallejo’s mother. “We will continue to wait with great faith,” said his father Oscar Vallejo, a veteran of the Falklands War.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri on Friday demanded “a serious, thorough investigation, which allows to have certainties” on the fate of the San Juan and to elucidate the explosion.
It must be determined, he added, “how a submarine that (…) was in perfect condition to navigate was visibly victim of an explosion”.
Judge Marta Yáñez opened an investigation with the aim of “determining the causes of the explosion”.
The San Juan has been missing since Wednesday, November 15 at 7:30 am (5:30 am Eastern Time). He did not activate his distress beacons.
Prior to the break-up of the communications, the submarine commander reported a problem with the batteries, which he said was not an obstacle to further navigation to his base.
The loss of the San Juan is a blow to the operational capability of the Argentine Navy. Between 2008 and 2014, the country had invested $ 20 million in the modernization of the submersible, which was the jewel of the Argentine army whose equipment is generally obsolete, lack of funding.