ARA San Juan

Picture: ARA San Juan in 2013

Argentina has called off a rescue operation for its missing submarine, with 44 crew on board, acknowledging that there is no hope they will be found alive.

ARA San Juan has been missing for 15 days and the crew only had enough oxygen to last up to 10, providing the submarine remained intact under the sea.

Spokesman Enrique Balbi said the rescue mission had been "extended for more than twice what is estimated for a rescue".

The Argentine Navy said an explosion occurred near the time and place where the ARA San Juan submarine went missing on November 15th.

Some relatives of the crew broke into tears after they received the news.

"I don't understand this arbitrary and unjustified decision," Luis Tagliapietra, the father of 27-year-old crew member Alejandro Tagliapietra, told local TV.

"It's unusually cruel. Every day, it's a new blow. I'm destroyed."

San Juan
Picture: ARA San Juan in 2013

The Navy has said the vessel's captain reported that water entered the snorkel and caused one of the submarine's batteries to short circuit.

The captain later communicated by satellite phone that the problem had been contained.

Some hours later, an explosion was detected near the time and place where the San Juan was last heard from.

A Navy spokesman said this week that the blast could have been triggered by a "concentration of hydrogen" caused by the battery problem reported by the captain.

The San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric TR-1700 class submarine, was commissioned in the 1980s and was most recently refitted in 2014.

Some family members have denounced the Navy's response to the sub's disappearance as well as the age and condition of the vessel, while president Mauricio Macri has promised a full investigation.

RAF Voyager
An RAF Voyager aircraft arrived in Argentina to help with the search. Picture: British Embassy in Argentina.

The UK was among those participating in the multinational search across an area of around 185,000 square miles, with RAF Voyager and C-130 aircraft and vessels HMS Protector and HMS Clyde giving assistance.

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