Ar­gentina says it lacks abil­ity to raise sunken sub­ma­rine

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD - By Al­mu­dena Cala­trava

BUENOS AIRES, Ar­gentina — Hours af­ter an­nounc­ing the dis­cov­ery of an Ar­gen­tine sub­ma­rine lost deep in the At­lantic a year ago with 44 crew mem­bers aboard, the govern­ment said Satur­day that it is un­able to re­cover the ves­sel in an ad­mis­si­ion that drew anger from miss­ing sailors’ rel­a­tives who de­manded that it be raised.

De­fense Min­is­ter Os­car Aguad said at a news con­fer­ence that the coun­try lacks “mod­ern tech­nol­ogy” ca­pa­ble of “ver­i­fy­ing the seabed” to ex­tract the ARA San Juan, which was found 2,975 feet deep in wa­ters off the Valdes Penin­sula in Ar­gen­tine Patag­o­nia, 373 miles from the port city of Co­modoro Ri­va­davia.

Ear­lier, the navy said a “pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion” had been made by a re­mote-op­er­ated sub­mersible from the Amer­i­can com­pany Ocean In­fin­ity. The com­pany, com­mis­sioned by the Ar­gen­tine govern­ment, be­gan search­ing for the miss­ing ves­sel Sept. 7.

It what be.

Ocean In­fin­ity CEO Oliver Plun­kett said au­thor­i­ties would have to de­ter­mine how to ad­vance.

“We would be pleased to as­sist with a re­cov­ery op­er­a­tion but at the mo­ment are fo­cused on com­plet­ing imag­ing of the de­bris field,” he said.

Navy com­man­der Jose Luis Vil­lan urged “pru­dence,” say­ing that a fed­eral judge was over­see­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and would be the one to de­cide whether it was pos­si­ble to re­cover a part or the en­tirety of the sub.

With­out ad­e­quate tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties, how­ever, Ar­gentina would likely need to seek as­sis­tance from for­eign coun­tries or pay Ocean In­fin­ity or an­other com­pany, po­ten­tially com­pli­cat­ing its re­cent com­mit­ment to aus­ter­ity. Ar­gentina is fac­ing a cur­rency cri­sis and dou­bledigit in­fla­tion that has led the govern­ment to an­nounce sweep­ing mea­sures to bal­ance the bud­get and con­cretize a fi­nanc­ing deal with the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund. re­mained un­clear the next steps could

Any move to re­cu­per­ate the ves­sel would also be a lo­gis­ti­cally large and chal­leng­ing un­der­tak­ing based on the sub­ma­rine’s dis­tance from the coast, its depth, and the kind of seabed upon which it is rest­ing.

Rel­a­tives of crew mem­bers were de­ter­mined to fight for it to be sur­faced.

Is­abel Vilca, the half sis­ter of crew­man Daniel Ale­jan­dro Polo, said fam­i­lies need to re­cover the re­mains of their loved ones to know what hap­pened and help pre­vent sim­i­lar tragedies.

Luis An­to­nio Niz, fa­ther of crew mem­ber Luis Niz, said “if they sent him off, I want them to bring him back to me.”

The sub’s dis­cov­ery was an­nounced two days af­ter fam­i­lies of the miss­ing sailors held a one-year com­mem­o­ra­tion for its dis­ap­pear­ance on Nov. 15, 2017. The San Juan was re­turn­ing to its base in the coastal city of Mar del Plata when con­tact was lost.

The com­pany un­suc­cess­fully searched for the Malaysia Air­lines plane that dis­ap­peared in 2014 over the In­dian Ocean.

DIEGO IZQUIERDO/TELAM

Rel­a­tives of the crew protest Satur­day out­side a navy base in Mar del Plata, Ar­gentina.

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