As a multinational search to find an Argentine submarine remains fruitless more than a week after it vanished, authorities fear crew members may be running out of time, CNN reports.
The ARA San Juan, which is carrying 44 crew members, including the country's first woman submarine officer, was last seen a week ago, on November 15, in the San Jorge Gulf, about 268 miles off the coast of Argentina.
The submarine has only enough air to last seven to 10 days if it has remained fully immersed since that time, experts say. That's the worst-case scenario. It's a different story if the submarine has surfaced or "snorkeled" -- that is, raised a tube to the surface to refresh the vessel's air.
"We are in the critical phase," Enrique Balbi, spokesman for the Argentine navy.
"There is no type of contact, not passive nor active," he said.
Reports of contact with the sub have served only to stoke false hope. Rumors of a recent distress call are false, the spokesman said. Communication signals picked up Saturday and noises detected beneath the water Monday did not originate from the sub, and a dinghy with survival supplies found Tuesday is a different model than the ones with which the San Juan is outfitted, Balbi has said.
In a Wednesday news conference, Balbi said the Navy had just began analyzing a new noise that was detected on the day the sub went missing.
On Tuesday night, a British polar ship saw flares -- one orange and two white -- east of where it was conducting operations, prompting the dispatch of a search-and-rescue team consisting of three ships and two aircraft.
For many hours, they patrolled the area "and were not able to detect any magnetic anomaly," Balbi told CNN.
Plus, the spokesman has said previously, the flares aboard the San Juan are green and red.
Thus, the search will continue across a 1,000-kilometer-long (621-mile) swath of the South Atlantic, parts of which are roughly 900 kilometers (559 miles) from the Argentine coast. The search area covers 480 square kilometers (185 square miles), about the size of Albuquerque, New Mexico, or Helsinki, Finland, and more than twice the size of the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.
Eleven countries have joined Argentina in the search, contributing personnel, planes and boats. Meanwhile, merchant ships, scientific vessels and fishing trawlers have joined in the effort.
According to state-run Telam, Balbi said the conditions Wednesday were perfect for the aerial and nautical search, and he urged family members of the crew "not to lose hope."