The families of the missing Argentine submarine crew received phone calls informing them that all of the 44 men aboard the vessel have died following an explosion on the day that the vessel disappeared, Daily Mail reported, citing news media.
Relatives of the missing crew members claimed to have received phone calls from Navy officials telling them that all of the men aboard the submarine perished after the explosion that occurred 600 to 3,000 feet under water last week.
Argentina’s Navy has not officially confirmed the deaths as an international search effort continues.
An abnormal sound detected underwater by an international agency on the morning of Nov. 15, around the time that the ARA San Juan sent its last signal and in the same area, was “consistent with an explosion,” navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told reporters.
The navy did not have enough information to say what the cause of the explosion could have been or whether the vessel might have been attacked, Balbi said.
Luiz Tagliapietro, the father of one of the sailors, told Daily Mail that a Navy official contacted him to break the news that his son, Damian Tagliapietro, was dead.
“My son’s boss confirmed that they are all dead,” Tagliapietro told a radio station, according to Daily Mail. “There’s no human being who survives that.”
“They are all dead. I can’t talk much,” Tagliapietro continued. “They called me 15 minutes ago to tell me that it exploded.”
Some of the relatives are blaming the Navy for withholding the news of the explosion.
“According to them, they only found out about the explosion now, but who is so stupid to believe that?” said Itati Leguizamon, the wife of one of the crew members. “They are a disgrace. They lied to us.”
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), an international body that runs a global network of listening posts designed to check for secret atomic blasts, detected the explosion.
The Vienna-based agency, which has monitoring stations equipped with devices including underwater microphones that scan the oceans for sound waves, said in a statement that two of its stations had detected an unusual signal near where the submarine went missing. But the agency was more guarded about whether this was caused by an explosion.
A huge sea and air hunt has been underway for the San Juan, a German-built, diesel-electric powered submarine that was launched in 1983, as crew members’ relatives waited anxiously for news more than a week after the vessel disappeared.
The relatives, camped out in a naval base in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, have been largely optimistic until now, but they shed tears and insulted authorities after being briefed on the news of the possible explosion. They were told about it before the public announcement.
Balbi said that the news of the abnormal sound was consistent with a separate report received Wednesday of an “acoustic anomaly” in the same area and around the same time. The San Juan was some 270 miles off the Patagonian coast when it sent its last signal.
“This is very important because it allows us to correlate and confirm the acoustic anomaly from the U.S. report yesterday,” Balbi said. “Here, we’re talking about a singular, short, violent, non-nuclear event, consistent with an explosion.”
In Vienna, CTBTO hydroacoustic engineer Mario Zampolli said the signal his agency had detected, “could be consistent with an explosion but there is no certainty about this.” Speaking to Reuters, he agreed with Balbi’s description of the signal as unusual and short, adding that the cause was non-natural.
The submarine was en route from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, to Mar del Plata, some 250 miles south of Buenos Aires, when it reported an electrical malfunction shortly before disappearing.
The vessel had seven days of oxygen supply, meaning the crew would be running low if it had not been able to surface.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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