A noise detected near the last known location of a missing Argentine submarine on the day it vanished was consistent with an explosion, the Argentine navy said Thursday.
“An anomalous, singular, short, violent and non-nuclear event, consistent with an explosion, was registered,” navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told a news conference in Buenos Aires.
Teams from a dozen nations have been searching by air and sea for the ARA San Juan, which has 44 crew aboard and was last contacted off the coast of Argentina on November 15.
The latest update comes as the clock runs down on the chances of finding the vessel before its air supply runs out.
The San Juan has enough air to last seven to 10 days if it has remained fully immersed since that time, experts say. If the submarine has surfaced or “snorkeled” — that is, raised a tube to the surface to refresh the vessel’s air — since then, the crew may have bought more time.
Anxious families have been waiting at Argentina’s Mar del Plata navy base, to which the submarine was heading when it vanished, for news of their loved ones. Meanwhile, ships and aircraft are scouring a swath of the South Atlantic for the missing vessel.
Argentinian officials on Thursday briefed relatives of the crew members about the explosion. Overcome with grief, family members gathered at the navy base sobbed and held each other up.
Balbi said information about the noise had first been given to Argentina on Wednesday by the United States.