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Families of missing Argentine sub crew slam end of rescue operation

Relatives of the 44 crew members of an Argentine submarine that went missing at sea last month have staged a rally to protest what they call the government’s poor response to the tragedy.

The protesters marched Sunday from the navy base in the port city of Mar del Plata on Argentina’s Atlantic coast, holding posters with photos of their missing loved ones.

The Argentine navy announced on Thursday that the 44 sailors aboard the ARA San Juan are presumed deceased. It said there was no hope of finding any survivors but search would continue for the vessel in the South Atlantic.

The ARA San Juan last made contact on November 15 when it reported an “electrical breakdown.”

President Mauricio Macri is expected to soon declare a period of national mourning for the submarine crew.

The protesters, however, criticized the government for giving up the rescue mission, urging authorities to resume the operation.

“Search and Rescue!” they shouted.

“He (Macri) needs to be here because this is the priority, there are 44 families behind this situation and someone has to be in charge,” said Marcela Fernandez, wife of Alberto Sanchez, one of the missing sailors.

Relatives and friends of the 44 crew members of the missing ARA San Juan submarine march outside an Argentine naval base in Mar del Plata, December 3, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

The navy has said water that entered the submarine’s snorkel caused its battery to short-circuit before it went missing. It also said the submarine could have imploded on the same day that contact was lost.

The protesters have also said they want to know why they were kept in the dark for days over reports of the explosion near the vessel’s last recorded location.

“It’s because we want them to continue with the search and rescue and we want them here, I have said many times: If they took them, please bring them back,” said another protester.

The government has pledged to continue the search with foreign assistance.

The search has so far scanned 557,000 square nautical miles of the South Atlantic Ocean surface and 1,049,479 square nautical miles undersea through radar exploration, without any contact with San Juan or finding evidence of the sub’s location such as life rafts or debris.

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