The ongoing search for Argentina's missing ARA San Juan submarine and her 44 crew no longer presents "a scenario compatible with human life," navy spokesman Captain Enrique Balbi has confirmed.
"The external environment, the time elapsed and the lack of evidence prevent sustaining a scenario compatible with human life," Balbi said Saturday, two days after the rescue operation was officially downgraded.
No signals from the stricken submarine have been detected since the German-built vessel vanished in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean November 15, near Patagonia, shortly after reporting an electrical fault.
Posting on Twitter early Saturday, Balbi noted that a Russian remote-operated submersible had made contact with an unidentified object on the seabed at a depth of 477 metres, but he later confirmed that it was not the San Juan.
The Ministry of Defense and the Argentine Navy "regret that the hasty dissemination and interpretation of the images... have awakened logical expectations in the family and society, having to face now a new frustration," Balbi later said.
"We ratify two commitments: to continue with the search for #submarinoARASanJuan on the seabed until all means are exhausted, and to continue accompanying the families of our crew at every moment and for every need that is presented," Balbi earlier wrote.
On Friday, families of the missing 44 crew met with Argentine Defense Minister Oscar Aguad to officially reject the navy’s suspension of the rescue efforts in favor of the current search-and-recovery mission.
"These people spoke without giving expectations because the word 'rescue' didn't come out of their mouths," the relatives said in a statement. "They continue with the word 'search.' We demand compensation."
Alicia, the wife of one of the missing officers, told the A24 news channel: "The President (Mauricio Macri) has no idea what he's saying. He should show his face. Why won't he come and speak to the families? We're waiting for him and Minister Aguad."