A water leak through the snorkel of Argentine submarine ARN San Juan caused the vessel’s battery to short-circuit before it went missing earlier this month, a navy spokesman says.
The news comes as hope dwindles among some families of the 44-member crew as time runs out to find the sub missing since November 15.
The San Juan had only a seven-day oxygen supply when it lost contact, and a sudden noise was detected that the navy says could have been the implosion on the vessel.
Before its disappearance, the submarine had been ordered back to its Mar del Plata base after it reported water had entered the vessel through its snorkel, causing a battery short circuit, navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told a news conference Monday local time.
“They had to isolate the battery and continue to sail underwater toward Mar del Plata, using another battery,” Mr Balbi said.
After contact with the San Juan was lost, the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organisation, an international body that runs a global network of listening posts designed to check for secret atomic blasts, detected a noise the navy said could have been the missing submarine’s implosion.
The search for the 65-metre diesel-electric submarine is concentrated in an area some 430 km off Argentina’s southern coast. The effort includes ships and planes manned by 4000 personnel from 13 countries.
Among the crew’s family members, fissures started appearing on Monday between those who refuse to give up hope and those who say it is time to accept that their loved ones will not come back alive.
But Itati Leguizamon said she believed her husband, crew member German Suarez, had died.
“There is no way they are alive,” she told reporters, her voice shaking and eyes welling with tears. “It is not that I want this. I love him. I adore him. He left his mother and sister behind, but there is no sense in being stubborn.
“The other families are attacking me for what I am saying,” she said, “but why have they not found it yet? Why don’t they tell us the truth?”