The Argentine Navy yesterday announced the search operation for the ARA San Juan submarine, which went missing 16 days ago today, no longer hopes to find its 44 crew members alive. In a new contact with the press, Navy spokesperson Enrique Balbi read a release informing the end of the search and rescue operation, which means the efforts will now only be aimed at finding the vessel.

Balbi explained that altogether, the ships involved in the operation sailed roughly 1 million nautical miles, and combed the search area – of about 40 square kilometers – at a depth of up to 300 meters. However, all results proved unfruitful. As a result of this, some ships began to make their way back to the Comodoro Rivadavia port, in the province of Chubut.

In another passage of the conference, Balbi informed that, if the operation determines the submarine is more than 500 meters deep, all efforts to retrieve it will be abandoned. However, government sources told Clarín the Macri administration will not officially announce the death of the crew members “until having at least a picture of the sunken submarine.”

“In no way this means we are abandoning the search of the San Juan. The political decision is to continue searching with all our resources and international support,” the source added.

However, since this decision puts and end to the international search and rescue protocol, it will be up to the countries that have been joining Argentina in its efforts to continue doing so. According to Infobae, the American Navy has decided to go back to the United States.

Some of the crew’s family members reacted angrily to the announcement. Luis Tagliapietra, the father of Alejandro Damián Tagliapietra, told the cable news channel Todo Noticias “I want to know what happened for real, because I don’t believe the official hypothesis at all.”

Following the announcement, President Mauricio Macri cancelled his first official event of the day, and press reported he is considering recording a message to address the issue. He also decided to send Defense Minister Oscar Aguad to the Mar del Plata Navy base, where the crew’s family members have been waiting for updates about the operation during the past 16 days.