Last message from missing Argentine submarine warns 'beginning of a fire'

By Sara Shayanian  |  Nov. 28, 2017 at 10:42 AM
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Nov. 28 (UPI) -- The missing Argentine submarine's last message before losing contact revealed a leak of seawater and the beginnings of a battery fire.

The ARA San Juan submarine sent the final message on Nov. 15. The vessel, with a crew of 44 members, has been missing since it went silent on the radio nearly two weeks ago while traveling off the coast of Northern Patagonia.

"Entry of seawater by ventilation system to battery tank No. 3 caused a short circuit and the beginning of a fire in the balcony of battery bars, bow batteries out of service, at the time of immersion, propelling with a split circuit. I will keep staff informed," the radio message said, according to Argentine television.

Despite that radio correspondence, navy Adm. Gabriel González said shortly after the sub went missing that he didn't consider the incident an emergency.

"We are at a loss of communications, we are not talking about an emergency," González said.

Thirteen days later, navy spokesman Enrique Balbi called the fire "a rumor."

"Officially we do not have any news about that," Balbi said. "I do not know where that rumor came from."

The navy said it followed protocol while looking for the submarine, despite waiting two days after it lost contact with the vessel to begin the search.

Almost two weeks after it disappeared, the only sign of the missing sub has been the reports of an apparent explosion close to its last known location.

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