Argentina’s navy on Thursday announced that a sound heard during the hunt for a missing submarine apparently came from an explosion.
Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said that the search will continue until the definitive fate of the ARA San Juan is known.
“[It was] an anomalous event that was singular, short, violent and non-nuclear that was consistent with an explosion,” he said of the noise.
“According to this report, there was an explosion,” Balbi additionally told reporters in Mar Del Plata, Argentina. “We don’t know what caused an explosion of these characteristics at this site on this date.”
Balbi’s remarks prompted relatives of the 44 missing crew members aboard the San Juan to burst into tears.
U.S. and specialist agencies on Thursday said that the “hydro-acoustic anomaly” was generated mere hours after Argentina’s navy lost contact with the submarine on Nov. 15.
The vehicle was initially scheduled to arrive this Monday at Mar del Plata Navy Base, which is about 250 miles southeast of Argentina’s capital city of Buenos Aires.
Argentina’s navy and outside experts have since agreed that even if the San Juan remains intact, its crew may only have enough oxygen to be submerged seven to 10 days.
The San Juan vanished as it was sailing from the southern Argentine port of Ushuaia, and more than a dozen airplanes and ships are now looking for the vessel.
The multinational search continues despite stormy weather in the region that has caused waves more than 20 feet high.
Search teams are examining an area of approximately 185,000 square miles, which is about the size of Spain.
President Trump’s administration has sent two P-8 Poseidons, a naval research ship, a submarine rescue chamber and sonar-equipped underwater vehicles for the hunt.
U.S. Navy sailors from the Undersea Rescue Command in San Diego are also helping look for the missing submarine.
U.S. Navy Lt. Lily Hinz on Thursday said that the sound detected underwater could not be attributed to marine life or a naturally occurring noise in the Atlantic Ocean.
“It was not a whale, and it is not a regularly occurring sound,” she said eight days after the San Juan disappeared.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.