Fear deepens on fate of missing Argentine submarine

Fear deepens on fate of missing Argentine submarine

Fear deepens on fate of missing Argentine submarine

Ten days after Argentina's missing San Juan submarine went silent, grieving relatives have begun mourning the loss of its 44 missing crew members with a religious ceremony Saturday, even though the navy has yet to declare them dead.

Saddened and angered by evidence that the vessel may have exploded, relatives of the crew onboard a missing Argentine submarine are losing hope that their loved ones will be found alive.

But spokesman Enrique Balbi said Friday that Russian Federation is sending an Antonov transport aircraft and a ship is being adapted in the southern Patagonian port of Comodoro Rivadavia to carry a U.S. Navy submarine rescue chamber to the area.

"The loss of the San Juan is a effect of the fact that the abandonment and degradation of our defense forces has been an official policy", Argentine Senator Pino Solanas of the independent Project South party told local radio on Saturday. "First we have to have certainty of what happened and why it happened", said Macri.

A snapshot of the Argentine sub's crew

Depths plummet from 200 meters (650 feet) to more than 3,000 meters on the edge of the Argentine shelf.

But Balbi has defended the Argentine navy, saying that "with respect to the maintenance and state of our naval and air units, no unit ever leaves port or takes off if it isn't in operating conditions to navigate or fly with total security".

Concerns about the crew's fate have set off a fierce political debate in a society sharply divided between supporters of President Mauricio Macri and opposition Peronists, who have been quick to find fault with the government's response. It was originally scheduled to arrive Monday at a navy base there.

Balbi told reporters that the submarine was not carrying torpedoes, thus dismissing the idea of a mishap with the explosives. "The black box is the submarine", and it would have to be recovered before the causes of the explosion could be known.

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