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Search under way for Argentine Navy submarine with 44

BUENOS AIRES — Military ships and aircraft searched off the coast of Argentina on Friday for an Argentine navy submarine missing for two days, officials said.

The vessel, which was patrolling off Patagonia with 44 crew members, last made radio contact Wednesday, Capt. Enrique Balbi, a spokesman for the Argentine navy, said in a television interview.

Two planes were deployed Thursday afternoon to begin searching for the submarine, ARA San Juan, one of three in Argentina's fleet. Rescuers were hindered by poor visibility and they resumed the search Friday morning using vessels as well as aircraft.

The submarine's last known location was 240 nautical miles off the coast, according to the navy.

The ARA San Juan was traveling from the Patagonian city of Ushuaia to Mar del Plata, in Buenos Aires province, conducting a routine security patrol. Submarines often ply the Argentine coast to detect illegal fishing.

One of the crew members is Eliana María Krawczyk, Argentina's first female submarine officer. Her father, Eduardo Krawczyk, told the Todo Noticias news network Friday that the family was hoping for the best.

"Let's pray together for everything to be resolved and for nothing to have happened to anyone in the crew," he said. "In the sea, they're all brothers. It's not like a boat that sails on the surface. Submarines have greater risks."

The rescue mission Friday included two ships, destroyer ARA Sarandi, which has a helicopter onboard, and corvette ARA Rosales. Argentine officials also asked civilian vessels in the area to monitor for possible radio signals from the submarine.

Navy officials attempted to downplay the situation after local news outlets broke news of the search early Friday.

"We are not talking about an emergency right now, but rather we are handling it as a loss of communication with the submarine," Rear Adm. Gabriel Martín González, who oversees submarine crews, told reporters gathered outside the naval base in Mar del Plata.

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