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Argentine submarine: the 44 sailors’ relatives hope for a miracle

Ⓒ AFP – EITAN ABRAMOVICH – | A couple watches a military boat on its return to the port of Mar del Plata after researching the Argentine submarine San Juan, November 20, 2017

With hope, anguish or on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a hundred of the 44-member crew of the Argentine military submarine San Juan await a sign of life, entrenched in the naval base of Mar del Plata.

The 44 sailors should have returned home Sunday or Monday. But their wives, parents and children, on the other hand, have been living hell since Thursday when they received a call from officers telling them that the San Juan had been missing since yesterday.

“Let’s hope they locate them, we have to wait and pray, we have no choice, we planned to meet again on Sunday in Mar del Plata to have a barbecue,” says Carlos Mendoza, father of Fernando Mendoza, hoping that this is only a postponement.

“We are trying to be positive, and we are proud to see the messages of hope pouring in on social networks, and I am convinced that if the 33 Chilean miners are out, our 44 will also come back,” said Marcela Tagliafeta, who sister of Lieutenant Carlos Mendoza.

On the metal grilles encircling the naval base, handwritten messages, images of the Virgin, in support of missing sailors.

“Young courageous Navy: the heart paused until you return,” said a poster hanging on the wire with ribbons sky blue and white, the colors of the Argentine flag.

The base is visible from the avenue along the coast. High points of Mar del Plata, one even distinguishes the submarine Salta, identical to the San Juan, of black color, moored in the base.

Most sailors and their families live in Mar del Plata, a port and seaside resort, 400 km from the capital Buenos Aires.

Since Thursday, relatives who wish are accommodated in the base, with medical and psychological assistance, 24 hours a day.

“Be a good daddy, your family is waiting for you”, is written on a piece of paper, with a picture of Carmen’s virgin, Stella Maris, Patrona del Mar and Los Marinos.

– Uncertainty –

“Logically, some support better than others, but there is a positive spirit, a hope that a clue leads to the submarine,” said Jorge Villarreal, father of Fernando Villarreal, sailor on the San Juan.

“They are very well prepared, my son has chosen this job because he feels very proud and does it with a lot of professionalism, they know every corner of the submarine and how to handle it.”

On Monday, they received a half-hour visit from Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who came to meet families to show their support.

Ⓒ AFP – EITAN ABRAMOVICH – | Relatives of the San Juan submariners arrive at the port of Mar del Plata, south of Buenos Aires, on November 20, 2017.

The psychiatrist Enrique Stein directs the psychological cell. Trauma issue, he knows it, having treated veterans of the Falklands war in 1982.

“They are in uncertainty,” he says, for now, “we had little crisis, crying,” but “anxiety grows” over the days.

On Saturday, a jubilant feeling came when Argentina’s Defense Minister Oscar Aguad announced that seven calls likely from the submarine had been received at naval bases.

“They are outside, if they call by satellite, it means that they have come to the surface, it gives us hope, because we know that down there, they are fucked,” enthused Claudio Rodríguez, whose brother Hernán is a mechanic on the San Juan.

These alleged distress calls have been interpreted as evidence of life. But on Monday, the anguish escalated when the Navy spokesman revealed that the calls were not coming from the submersible satellite phone.

Still on Monday, families believed for a few hours that sounds recorded by two ships were signs of life coming from the submarine.

Again, experts have determined that this is not the acoustic mark of a submarine, but natural sounds of the Atlantic.

“We do not know anything, we are waiting with a lot of anguish,” says Andrea Ali, wife of Franco Ali, an electrician aboard the San Juan.

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