Navy spokesperson Enrique Balbi informed today that the area in which the ARA San Juan submarine – which went missing 14 days ago along with its 44 crew members – is being searched for has been reduced to 40 square kilometers. However, even though eight ships have already combed 68 percent of this area, which is 20 times the size of Buenos Aires City, the vessel is still nowhere to be found.
“It is very hard to know how long it will take us to comb 100 percent [of the area]. The ships move at an extremely low speed to allow its probes and sonars to detect the possible presence of the submarine,” Balbi said. He also informed that overall there are 32 units – 23 ships and 9 airplanes – from 18 different countries involved in the operation.
The navy reduced the search area after the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization provided, in the last hours, new information regarding the explosion that was recorded in the area in which the submarine went missing.
According to the organization, the search radius is near the end of the Argentine economic exclusive zone and the beginning of the continental slope. This would mean that – should the explosion have come from the submarine – the possibilities the ARA San Juan fell to a depth over 600 meters are larger. If this was the case, its retrieval would became impossible, as the rescue mini submarine provided by the US Navy – the most modern in the world – can only operate up to that depth.
In another passage of the conference, Balbi categorically denied the veracity of two audios that made the rounds on social media and private messaging yesterday night: one was about an alleged contact from one of the ships partaking in the operation with the submarine; and the other one indicated that, before going missing, the vessel’s captain had requested to change its course and head to Puerto Belgrano, instead of Mar del Plata, to repair the batteries that had become inoperative during the journey.
“In no way there was a request for support. Had [the submarine] called for one, an emergency would have been declared. And if that happens, it would have always had to sail above water, regardless of the climatic conditions. There is no record of such a request. What happened [the problem with some of the submarine’s batteries] was not considered an emergency by the captain, not even something serious. It was a shortcut that was fixed,” Balbi said.
Finally, Balbi made reference to the request from Federal Judge Marta Yáñez – in charge of investigating the submarine’s disappearance – about lifting the military secrecy regarding the operation to be able to move forward with her investigation, and said she will be provided with all necessary confidential documentation. However, before doing so they need authorization from President Mauricio Macri. Unless there is breaking news, the next update will be provided tomorrow at noon.