The National Today

Missing sub search now a desperate race against time

A closer look at the day's most important stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse.

A closer look at the day's most important stories

The Argentine Navy lost contact with the ARA San Juan off the country's southern coast on Nov. 17. (Argentina Navy via Associated Press)

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Running out of time

It's been a full week now since the Argentine Navy lost contact with the submarine ARA San Juan, and hope is rapidly fading that the 44 missing crew, including the submarine service's first female officer, will be found alive.

The large-scale sea and air search off Argentina's South Atlantic coast has failed to find the vessel on the surface. Search conditions have been difficult, with high seas and stormy weather.

Argentine Navy captain Gabriel Galeazzi speaks to journalists at the Argentine naval base in Mar del Plata where the missing ARA San Juan submarine sailed from. (Marcos Brindicci/Reuters)
There have been unconfirmed reports today that a U.S. Navy ship has detected a metallic object on the sea floor at a depth of 70 metres. If the San Juan is submerged, its supply of oxygen will soon be exhausted.

The last messages from the sub, early on the morning of Nov. 15, first reported a storage battery fire, but then indicated that the situation was under control.

Reports of failed satellite calls to its base, and more recently sonar contact 'pings', have proven false. There has been no sign of an emergency beacon that is supposed to deploy if the vessel is in distress.

The ARA San Juan, seen in this 2014 photo, is a German-built diesel-electric vessel. (Argentina Navy via AP)
There are more than 440 submarines in service globally, in the navies of 40 different countries. But accidents — and especially sinkings — are rare in peacetime. The last such incident was the loss of Russia's Kursk, a nuclear-powered cruise missile sub, in the Barents Sea in August 2000, killing all 118 aboard.

Navies drill for submarine disasters on a regular basis. In Sept., NATO staged Operation Dynamic Monarch, a two-week Submarine Escape and Rescue (SMER) exercise off the coast of Turkey. It involved forces from nine nations, including Canada, France, Poland and the United Kingdom. And in October, Chile and the United States staged a similar drill in the Southern Pacific.

Argentina is part of a larger, global rescue coordination body, the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO).

The search area for the missing Argentinian submarine. (CBC)
The U.S. Navy has sent its undersea rescue team to Argentina, airlifting divers and crew along with a remotely operated sub, a rescue chamber, and a specially-pressurized module for deep water extractions.

Even if hope is in short supply, it's too early to give up — a hard lesson learned from the Kursk disaster. Dive teams did eventually reach the sub, resting on the bottom 90 metres down, but found water inside and abandoned their rescue efforts.

Later it was revealed that a note was found in the pocket of a Kursk commander, Lt. Capt. Dimitri Kolesnikov, when the crew's bodies were eventually brought to the surface.

''All personnel from compartments six, seven and eight moved to the ninth. There are 23 of us here," it read. "None of us can get out.''

Murder by numbers

Canada's homicide rate has changed little over the past decade, with a 10-year average of 1.69 victims per 100,000 population. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
Last year,611 people were murdered in Canada, according to the latest statistics released this morning.

That's a slight increase from 2015, when there were 609 murders across the country, but the murder rate — now 1.7 deaths per 100,000 population — actually dropped slightly due to population growth.

A few cities saw spikes in murders last year:

Overall, Canada's homicide rate has remained steady for the past decade, with a 10-year average of 1.69 victims per 100,000 population.

Compare this to the United States, which had 16,459 murders last year, up from 15,696 in 2015. That works out to a homicide rate of 5.4 killings per 100,000 population.

The murder rate in America's 30 largest cities rose 13.1 per cent last year. But more than half of that increase was due to Chicago's ongoing gang wars, which led to a record 781 homicides in 2016. In fact, Chicago accounted for 20 per cent of the national rise in murders from 2015.

Still, the American numbers are staggering. As you can see in this table:

Coming clean on ethnic cleansing

Rex Tillerson signaled a shift in U.S. foreign policy this morning when he called Myanmar's persecution of its Muslim minority an act of "ethnic cleansing."

"After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya," the U.S. Secretary of State said in a press statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
That's a significant change from just a week ago, when Tillerson visited the former Burma and met with its leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

During that trip, he said the violence and military operations, which have caused some 615,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh, had "characteristics of crimes against humanity," but refused to label it as a deliberate government expulsion.

Today's firm line — "No provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued," Tillerson said in his statement — should serve as a final warning to Myanmar's military that the world is running out of patience, and that the refugee crisis should be brought to a swift end.

In this Sept. 7 photo, unidentified men carry knives and slingshots as they walk past a burning house in Gawdu Tharya village near Maungdaw in Rakhine state in northern Myanmar. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
There have already been rumblings that the U.S. might reimpose the economic sanctions that were in place against the country for a decade, and finally removed last year.

During his recent Asia trip, Donald Trump pledged American support to end the violence and repatriate the refugees.

But there were no indications that the crisis was top of mind for the president when he awoke and took to Twitter, shortly before 6 a.m. this morning:

Quote of the moment

"Women are very special. I think it's a very special time because a lot of things are coming out, and I think that's good for our society, and I think it's very, very good for women. And I'm very happy a lot of these things are coming out, and I'm very happy it's being exposed."

- U.S. President Donald Trump's "message to women," delivered immediately after he endorsed Alabama Republican Roy Moore — who is accused of molesting teenage girls — for a Senate seat.

What the National is reading

  • Mladic convicted of genocide, sentenced to life in prison. (CBC)
  • Lebanese Prime Minister returns to Beirut, 'suspends' his resignation. (Guardian)
  • Ottawa to recognize housing as a 'fundamental right.' (CBC)
  • What the internet might look like if 'net-neutrality' is scrapped. (Business Insider)
  • Four-year-old Windsor, Ont., girl forgotten and left alone in a school bus. (CBC)
  • Washington D.C. wants to rename Russian Embassy street after a slain Putin opponent. (Washington Post)
  • Female Saturday Night Live staffers defend Al Franken. (NY Post)

Today in history

Nov. 22, 1975: Mila Mulroney: A future prime minister's wife? The 22-year-old new mother is revealed to be "strategically" expecting her second child "right about [Conservative Leadership] convention time."

Brian Mulroney aims for top Tory job with his young family in tow. 3:11

About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.