A Navy spokesman informed in a press conference this morning that after gathering information from two different sources, they had confirmed the detection of an “anomalous, short, violent, singular and non-nuclear explosion that is consistent with an explosion” in the area in which the ARA San Juan submarine went missing.
This information came from the government of the United States along with “agencies from other countries” and the Austrian government. The US first disclosed this information yesterday evening, while the Argentine ambassador in Austria sent the same information this morning.
(The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization has several seismic hydroacoustic stations put in place to make sure nuclear tests are not conducted anywhere).
Our hydroacoustic network detected an unusual signal near the last known position of #missing San Juan #submarine. The signal from an underwater impulsive event was detected 15 Nov 13:51 GMT, Lat -46.12 deg; Long: -59.69 deg. Details & data shared with Argentinian authorities. pic.twitter.com/SU5XHiICb4
— Lassina Zerbo (@SinaZerbo) November 23, 2017
Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said “the two sources reported that on Wednesday, November 15 at 10:51 AM, a hydro-acoustic anomaly was detected, which is consistent with an explosion,” and informed that ships and planes from six different countries are already combing the area, trying to map the bottom of the sea to try to locate the submarine.
“We will continue to search until we get concrete evidence of the submarine’s location, as well as its crew members. We will continue searching until we have some certainty. But we won’t jump to conclusions until we get some concrete information,” Balbi added.
The search area has a radius of 125 kilometers and is 430 kilometers away from the closest point of the shore. The is about 200 meters deep, although in some areas it can reach 3,000 meters deep. When consulted by journalists, Balbi said there is no evidence to determine the cause that resulted in the explosion, but immediately denied the possibility of an attack.
The crew’s family members, stationed outside, reacted with indignation and anger to the news and ended up interrupting his press conference.
“They killed my brother, assholes!” an outraged family member said. “They killed my brother because they sent him out to sea in a ship that wasn’t in a condition to navigate,” the man said before leaving the Mar del Plata naval base, where family members have been waiting for news in the last few days.
The wife of another missing crew member, named Itatí, spoke to the media right after Balbi’s press conference, and strongly criticized the government and the Navy. She said she was certain that “information had been withheld from them” and that the submarine was in no condition to navigate. In fact, she informed, the vessel had gone through another critical situation in 2014, when it was not able to surface on command, although the crew eventually managed to solve the crisis at the time.
Experts consulted by reporters were immediately speculating about the possibility that the explosion effectively took place inside the submarine and the potential reason that could have caused it.
“One of the most probable causes is that of an explosion as a result of a shortcut in the batteries powering the TR-1700. That shortcut could have created a voltaic arch between the batteries and the vessel’s hull. Something like a flash of lightning in a closed area. Had that happened, the expansive wave could have had lethal consequences inside the submarine, even if it wasn’t strong enough to result in its collapse,” experts explained to La Nación.
This could have made it impossible for the crew members to activate the emergency protocol and act in the way they are supposed to in such a situation.
The missing submarine story has made national headlines and has been keeping Argentine society on edge for a week now. Only yesterday afternoon, US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to express his support, although he got the number of crew members aboard the submarine wrong.
I have long given the order to help Argentina with the Search and Rescue mission of their missing submarine. 45 people aboard and not much time left. May God be with them and the people of Argentina!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2017