Rescue workers fear missing Argentine submarine may be low on oxygen

World Today

Time may be running out for a missing Argentine submarine. Six days into a multi-national search, rescue workers fear crew members are running out of oxygen. This comes after several glimmers of hope were quickly extinguished.

CGTN’s Joel Richards reports.

Outside the Argentine Navy headquarters in Buenos Aires, well-wishers gave a message of support for the crew members aboard the ARA San Juan submarine, missing since last Wednesday.

Here and elsewhere, an entire country is waiting for them.

The last contact with the ARA San Juan was six days ago, with only false alarms being reported since. From satellite signals and underwater sounds, to sightings of a lifeboat or a flare, the Navy has dismissed them all.

And as the one week mark nears, there are now concerns over the crew’s oxygen supply.

Tuesday afternoon, President Mauricio Macri visited the Navy headquarters in Buenos Aires, which had reporters anxiously waiting outside.

Navy spokesperson Enrique Balbi told them 4,000 personnel are involved in an international search for ARA San Juan. Vessels and aircraft from Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, the US, the UK, as well as Argentina are taking part.

But the Navy would not confirm the search is at a critical phase, or if the submarine is indeed running out of oxygen. A spokesperson said oxygen may not be an issue if the vessel was able to surface and refresh supplies, but did not say if this had happened.

Eight meter high waves pummeled the ocean’s surface over the weekend, but weather conditions improved on Tuesday.

The ARA San Juan was on a routine journey from Ushuaia – in the southern point of Argentina – to its base in Mar del Plata, when the crew reported battery failure on Wednesday.

In Mar del Plata, families are waiting.

“I believe that today is a critical day. All the days I say the same thing,” mother of one crew member Maria Victoria Morales said. “I get up thinking, without sleeping because I can’t sleep, but I open my eyes and say ‘today they are coming,’ and this gives us hope to go on.”

But as each day goes by without any contact from the crew, there is greater uncertainty and more anguish.