World

Argentine navy withheld news of missing sub's undersea explosion

MAR DEL PLATA, ARGENTINA: Argentina's navy confirmed that an unusual noise heard in the Atlantic near the last known position of a missing submarine appeared to be an explosion, dashing hopes of finding the vessel's 44 crew members alive.

Relatives of the missing sailors reacted with grief and anger after holding out for hope since the sub was reported overdue at its Mar del Plata base on Nov 17, two days after the explosion.

After days of false hopes, some of the relatives said the navy had withheld information about the sub and lied to them over the past week.

"I feel cheated," said Mrs Itati Leguizamon, whose husband German Suarez was a sonar operator on the 34-year-old German-built diesel-electric submarine, the San Juan.

"They did not tell us they died. But they tell us they are 3,000m deep," added Mrs Leguizamon as other family members shouted angrily around her.

"They lied to us," said Mrs Leguizamon, a lawyer.

A sobbing Jessica Gopar, whose husband was an electrician aboard the San Juan, said "they just told us that the submarine exploded".

"He was the love of my life, engaged seven years before we got married," Mrs Gopar said of her husband, Fernando Santilli.

"And how can I tell my son that he no longer has a father?"

Underwater sounds detected in the first days of the search by two Argentine search ships were determined to originate from a sea creature, not the vessel.

Satellite signals were also determined to be false alarms.

The newspaper La Nacion said suggsted that there could have been a short circuit in the diesal sub's batteries. It said this would explain the sub's failure to communicate and the fact that it did not have time to send off a distress signal. - AFP

WORLD