MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina – Some family members of the 44-member crew of a navy submarine that disappeared in the Atlantic eight days ago expressed anger at Argentine authorities on Thursday, saying they have not been frank in their communications and criticizing the condition of the vessel.
After eight days of uncertainty amid search and rescue efforts by more than a dozen countries, the relatives received word from the Argentine navy that an explosion had occurred aboard the ARA San Juan on Nov. 15 in the area near the submarine’s last known position.
A “short, singular, anomalous, violent and non-nuclear event consistent with an explosion” was detected on the ARA San Juan, navy spokesman Capt. Enrique Balbi said on Thursday, citing information received from Ambassador Rafael Grossi, a nuclear expert and Argentina’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which monitors nuclear tests, said it detected the “unusual signal” near the sub’s last known position.
In its latest report Thursday afternoon, the Argentine navy did not make a definitive statement on the condition of the 44 crew members even after some family members said they were convinced there were no survivors.
“Until we have concrete evidence of where the submarine is, we cannot conclude with a decisive affirmation,” navy spokesman Capt. Enrique Balbi said.
But family members said authorities were concealing the reality of what happened.
“Around 11 am, my son’s boss called me from the Mar del Plata base confirming the explosion and that they’re all dead,” Luis Tagliapietra – the father of Alejandro Damian, a 27-year-old corvette lieutenant – told EFE with evident sorrow in his voice.
“I can’t understand how the official communique doesn’t tell the truth. It’s incredible,” he added.
Another family member criticized the condition of the submarine and said it should never have been used for the mission.
“They sent a piece of s_ _t out to sea,” Itati Leguizamon, wife of radar operator German Oscar Suarez, told reporters in Mar del Plata, adding that the German-made submarine had suffered an earlier serious incident in 2014.
“This is 15 years in the making,” and both the previous government and the current government share responsibility because “no one has invested a dime” in the navy since the 1970s, she said.
The ARA San Juan, which was built in Germany in 1983 and refurbished a few years ago, departed the southern Argentine port of Ushuaia on Nov. 13 and was traveling to its base in Mar del Plata, around 430 kilometers (265 miles) south of Buenos Aires.