The Argentine navy says it has abandoned attempts to rescue 44 crew members on board of a submarine that disappeared two weeks ago.
"Despite the magnitude of the efforts made, it has not been possible to locate the submarine," navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said on Thursday.
The sub, the ARA San Juan, last made contact on Wednesday 15 November.
Hopes of finding survivors faded after a suspected explosion was heard near its last-known location.
Capt Balbi said the search for the submarine had been "extended to more than double the number of days that determine the possibilities of rescuing the crew".
His comment refers to the estimated period that it is thought the crew could have survived in the submerged vessel.
Capt Balbi said that the navy was not able to confirm the fate of the crew, and no evidence of a shipwreck was found in the search area.
He said that the search operation, involving numerous vessels and other submarines, was now a hunt for a wreck on the seabed in the area where the ARA San Juan is believed to have vanished.
At the Mar Del Plata naval base, both relatives and naval colleagues of those missing broke down upon hearing the news, reported La Nación newspaper, with doctors rushing to the aid of the most distraught.
Many relatives urged authorities to continue searching vigorously.
"We want them to keep looking, to find the bodies, we need this to begin grieving," said Yolanda Mendiola, mother of Petty Officer Leandro Cisneros
Some angrily accused authorities of allowing them to learn the news from the television, and of wanting to "leave the kids lying in the middle of the sea". Others held prayer groups and expressed hope that the crew might still be found alive.
Some voiced suspicion. "I want to know what happened and I do not believe in any of the official hypotheses," Luis Tagliapietra, whose son was on board, told the TN news channel. "I have no words for it," she said.
According to naval commander Gabriel Galeazzi, the submarine surfaced and reported what was described as a "short circuit" in the vessel's batteries.
The sub was ordered to cut its mission short and return to the naval base in Mar del Plata immediately.
The Argentine navy's last contact with the vessel was at approximately 07:30 (10:30 GMT) on 15 November, at which point its captain reportedly confirmed that the crew were well.
The submarine, with its 44 crew, set off under the command of Pedro Martín Fernández.
Forty-three of the crew were men but there was also one woman, Eliana María Krawczyk. The 35-year-old was the first female officer in Argentina to serve on a submarine.
The rest of the crew were submariners of varying ages and experience.
The sub's engineer, Hernán Rodríguez, had been working with the ARA San Juan for 11 years.
An international search mission has seen the deployment of 4,000 personnel from more than a dozen countries.
Read more at: BBC