Hope Dwindling for Missing Argentinian Submarine, Which Reported Fire in Last Message

ARA San Juan / Getty Images

Hope is dwindling for the 44 crew members aboard Argentina's missing submarine, the ARA San Juan, which reported a fire in its final message, according to new reports.

The submarine's crew sent a message on Nov. 15 saying water was entering through its snorkel and that a fire had occurred, Sky News reported Tuesday, citing Argentinian media. The leaking water caused the submarine's battery to short circuit.

The German-built diesel-electric submarine was traveling from a port in the southern part of the country to its home port in Mar Del Plata when it reported the leaking. The San Juan's captain used a satellite phone to report that the leak had been taken care of. The battery's short circuit appears to have caused the fire, however.

The submarine's disappearance has prompted more than a dozen countries, including the United States, to help in the search effort. Hopes dimmed, however, when the submarine did not surface after a week and no sign of the vessel was found; the San Juan only had a seven-day oxygen supply when it lost contact.

Underwater listening stations recently picked up the sound of a "violent" explosion that matched with the last known position of the San Juan. In addition to the possibility of an explosion, the submarine could have imploded if it sank to crush depth.

Argentinian President Mauricio Macri made his first public comments on the San Juan, mentioning the 44 families waiting for word on their loved ones and promising that the search will continue.

"I'm here to guarantee you that we will carry on with the search, especially now that we have the support of all the international community," Macri said.

An unintended consequence of the search effort has been improved relations between Argentina and the United Kingdom. A Royal Air Force aircraft landed in Argentina with search equipment and life support, making it the first one to land in the country since the Falklands War between the two nations.