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Search For Missing Argentine Sub Hampered By Bad Weather


Now here's an update on the submarine that vanished in the South Atlantic. It's from the navy of Argentina. Forty-four crew members were on board, and nobody has heard from them for five days. NPR's Philip Reeves reports on the search in stormy weather.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Searching for a submarine that's designed not to be seen is never going to be easy. It gets even harder when the vast expanse of the South Atlantic is being battered by terrible weather creating waves of up to 26 feet. Contact was lost with the sub early Wednesday. It was a couple of hundred miles off the coast of southern Argentina. On Saturday, there seemed to be good news. Seven brief satellite calls were detected. These failed to connect and were intermittent and weak. The Argentine authorities thought these might have come from the sub. Now they say they're not so sure.

The sub, the San Juan, was built in Germany more than 34 years ago and refitted in 2008. It's not a nuclear sub. It's diesel electric. Argentine authorities think it might have suffered a power outage. They reportedly say it should have enough food and oxygen to last a couple of weeks. At least seven nations are involved in the search. The U.S. is providing several planes and also two underwater rescue craft from the Navy's Undersea Rescue Command in San Diego. One is a module that can dock with a sub on the ocean bed at depths of up to 2,000 feet.

Britain's relations with Argentina have been rocky since 1982 when they went to war over the British-ruled South Atlantic archipelago that the British call the Falklands, and the Argentines, Las Malvinas. However, a British Royal Navy ice patrol ship with sonar equipment for searching underwater is tracing the path that the sub's thought to have taken.

The 44 crew include Argentina's first female submarine officer. For the submariners' families, these are deeply anxious times. Some of them are gathered at the Argentine naval base Mar del Plata, where the sub was heading when it disappeared. Well-wishers have hung up signs with messages of hope. Let's go, men of steel, says one. We're waiting for you at home. Philip Reeves, NPR News.


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Philip Reeves
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.