'All crew members are DEAD' Search for missing submarine ends in tragedy

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The rescue operation to find a missing Argentine submarine has now changed to a search mission, navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told reporters Thursday.

"More than double the number of days have passed where it would have been possible to rescue the crew", navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told a news conference.

The search involving 13 countries will now focus on scouring the sea bed for the vessel, Balbi said.

"Despite the magnitude of the effort made, it has not been possible to locate the submarine", he said, referring to the global response that included ships, aircraft and personnel from the United States, United Kingdom, Chile and Russian Federation. The US had already provided other assistance, as did about a dozen other countries.

ARA San Juan, a diesel-electric powered submarine with a 44-strong crew aboard, stopped responding to radio communications on November 15.

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.

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The ARA San Juan had a seven-day supply of air when it reported its last position on November 15.

The position was in line with the path the submarine would have taken to reach its base in Mar del Plata as planned, the navy has said.

"It has not been possible to locate the submarine, and there will be no rescue of people", he added.

"They just threw away the last hope we had", said Luis Tagliapietra, the 46-year-old father of one of the missing submariners.

Relatives embraced after the announcement on Thursday at the submarine's home naval base.

But Jorge Villareal, whose son Fernando was the ship's lieutenant, refused to give up. "What they are really saying is that they're not going to be looking for it any more". "The defense ministry announces the start of the next phase, aimed at searching for the San Juan submarine". The navy says the fire caused no flames and was put out.