A search for a missing Argentine navy submarine in the South Atlantic is reaching a “critical phase” on after a navy spokesman revealed that the 44 crewmembers on board could be running low on oxygen, Reuters reports. The submarine may have been located this morning (Wednesday, Nov. 22) after a US Navy aircraft reportedly detected a 'heat stain' from 230 ft below the surface, about 185 miles from the coast, the Daily Mail reports. A rescue vessel separately also reported hearing a sonar signal.
According to CNN, the submarine was due to arrive at its intended destination, Mar del Plata, on Sunday but it never showed up. 4,000 people and approximately 30 boats and planes from Argentina, the United States, Britain, Chile and Brazil have been desperately searching for the ARA San Juan, which last transmitted its location about 300 miles from the coast on November 15. For the past few days, the ocean around its location has been battered by strong winds and high waves.
If the submarine has sunk or has been unable to rise to the surface since November 15, it is expected to be using the last of its seven-day oxygen supply, soon, Reuters reports. The oxygen is expected to run out as early as Wednesday.
“We are in the critical phase...particularly with respect to oxygen,” Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said. “There has been no contact with anything that could be the San Juan submarine.”
William Craig Reed, a former US Navy diver and submariner told CNN that it is possible that the vessel suffered a “catastrophic failure.” He said it is possible that there "could be something minor that has caused them to either be hung up somewhere or they are on the bottom."
According to the Associated Press, hope is beginning to dwindle for the families members of those onboard. Relatives are reportedly growing increasingly distressed. Several of them have gathered at the naval base in Mar del Plata to wait for news.
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