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US Navy joins search for missing Argentine submarine

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A US Navy rescue crew has joined the international search effort amid high winds and raging seas for an Argentine submarine and its 44 crew members missing for several days in the southern Atlantic Ocean, reported New York Post (US).

The San Diego-based team has departed with a Submarine Rescue Chamber and four aircraft, en route to where the ARA San Juan went missing Wednesday, NBC News reported.

As waves of up to 20 feet complicated the rescue efforts, experts spent Sunday analyzing data from possible satellite calls that were thought to have been made from the German-built diesel-electric sub.

“We analyzed these signals, which as we know were intermittent and weak,” Gabriel Galeazzi, a naval commander, told NBC. “They could not help determine a point on the map to help the search.”

US satellite communications company Iridium Communications, which has been helping to analyze the calls, said they did not originate from its device aboard the San Juan and may have been from another satellite communications company’s equipment.

According to the US Navy, the SRC uses advanced technology capable of reaching depths of 850 feet and rescuing six people at a time.

Sailors with the Undersea Rescue Command will join the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon plane and a NASA research aircraft, both already assisting in the search efforts near the sub’s last known location.

The US Navy also has deployed unmanned underwater vehicles, which can search a wide swath of the ocean using sonar technology.

The Bluefin 12D, one of the unmanned vehicles, can search at a maximum depth of almost 5,000 feet for 30 hours.

Other countries aiding in the search are Brazil, Britain, Chile and Uruguay.

The seven satellite calls detected Saturday did not lock in, thus preventing a full connection, so authorities have been unable to confirm that they originated from the submarine.

“The communications are so short and the signal so low,” Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told Agence France-Presse, later adding that the military has yet to have contact with or detect radar from the sub.

Balbi said weather conditions were not expected to improve before Tuesday.

Despite the inclement weather, “10 aircraft, both domestic and foreign, are in a search rotation 24 hours a day, each in a different area,” he said.

There is a feeling of “cautious enthusiasm,” naval expert Fernando Morales told C5N TV.

The last regular communication with the San Juan was early Wednesday, when it was 270 miles off Argentina’s coast in the Gulf of San Jorge.

Among those on board is Argentina’s first female submarine officer, 35-year-old weapons officer Eliana Krawczyk.

An Argentine navy spokesman said the most likely scenario in the mystery is that an electrical problem may have unexpectedly cut off the 213-foot-long sub’s communications.

Relatives of crew members unfurled a flag at the naval base that read: “Be strong Argentina, We trust in God, We wait for you.”

“We will do what is necessary to find the submarine as soon as possible,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri wrote on Twitter.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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