Argentina says it lacks ability to raise sunken submarine
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.
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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.
Relatives of the crew protest Saturday outside a navy base in Mar del Plata, Argentina.