An object detected by a US Navy plane near the area where a missing Argentinian submarine sent its last signal is "not the lost sub", officials said.
Argentina's Navy confirmed on Thursday that there was a "singular, abnormal, short, violent and non-nuclear event" consistent with an explosion in the area where the submarine was lost.
If the vessel remained intact, its crew would have only enough oxygen to survive submerged for a little more than a week. He also urged family members of the crew "not to lose hope". The San Juan was some 270 miles off the Patagonian coast when it sent its last signal.
On news of the explosion, even family members who were still holding out hope, appeared to give up.
Itati Leguizamon, whose husband is among the missing, told reporters, "They did not tell us they were dead, but that is the logical conclusion".
The search effort also includes ships and planes from Brazil, Chile, Great Britain and other countries.
The U.S. Navy said it had deployed unmanned underwater vehicles, or "mini-subs" equipped with sonar, to join the search.
But the search has been stymied by six-metre waves and winds near 80 km/h, according to NPR.
But citing respect for the families, navy spokesman Enrique Balbi declined to say anything to confirm the now-common belief that the crew had perished.
Earlier, officials were working to determine whether phone calls recorded from the area near the San Juan's last known location may have come from the vessel, the New York Times reported.
The relatives, camped out in a naval base in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, have been largely optimistic until now, but they shed tears and insulted authorities after being briefed on the news of the possible explosion.
However, Balbi said that "the malfunction could not be associated to the disappearance".
US Navy Lt. Lily Hinz said the unusual sound detected underwater could not be attributed to a naturally occurring noise in the ocean.
Hydroacoustic stations are part of the organization's monitoring system that keeps track of signs of nuclear explosions around the globe.
Speaking at a forum on open government in Buenos Aires, Argentine President Mauricio Macri said: "In these hard hours, I did not want to start without sending once again all my support to the families of the crew of the ARA San Juan submarine". "They inaugurated a submarine with a coat of paint and a flag in 2014, but without any equipment inside".
"This is 15 years in the making", and both the previous government and the current government share responsibility because "no one has invested a dime" in the navy since the 1970s, she said.
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