Gavin Williamson offers condolences to Argentina after submarine explosion fears

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Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has offered Britain's "sincerest condolences" to Argentina amid fears that all 44 crew members on a missing submarine have died.

Hopes of finding the ARA San Juan plummeted on Thursday after Argentina's navy announced that a sound thought to be an explosion had been detected.

US and specialist agencies said the "hydro-acoustic anomaly" was produced just hours after the navy lost contact with the submarine on November 15.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Argentinian navy spokesman Enrique Balbi has said the search will continue until there is full certainty about what happened to the San Juan.

But he said evidence showed "an anomalous event that was singular, short, violent and non-nuclear that was consistent with an explosion".

More than a dozen international vessels and aircraft joined the search for the San Juan, including a Voyager jet which became the first RAF plane to depart from the UK and land in Argentina since the Falklands War 35 years ago.

A ship sails off the navel base in Mar del Plata, Argentina, as part of a search effort to find the missing submarine (Vicente Robles/AP)
A ship sails off the navel base in Mar del Plata, Argentina, as part of a search effort to find the missing submarine (Vicente Robles/AP)

Following the announcement of the apparent explosion, Mr Williamson said: "This has not just been an agonising time for Argentina, but for our whole international community, and this news is truly devastating for everyone involved in this week's search and rescue operation.

"When it comes to situations like this, nationality doesn't matter: all sailors have an obligation to help each other in a time of such desperate need.

"I'm extremely proud of the role our Navy and Air Force have played in the international effort to help, and I speak on behalf of those involved, and the whole country, in offering our sincerest condolences to Argentina and the family and friends of the crew."