Toronto/Washington, Canada, June 19 (EFE).- The search for a small tourist submersible that went missing with five people on board during a dive to the wreckage of the Titanic intensified on Sunday as more resources joined the race against time.
OceanGate Expeditions’ Titan submersible lost contact with research vessel Polar Prince on Sunday and was unclear whether it was still underwater or had surfaced but was incommunicado.
Mi’sel Joe, head of the Canadian indigenous group that owns the Polar Prince, told public broadcaster CBC that the submersible was reported missing after it was overdue by a couple of hours.
The United States has joined the Canadian search, and rescue efforts are focused on an area approximately 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) off Cape Cod in Massachusetts, said First US Coast Guard District commander John Mauger in a press conference.
The submersible could be on the surface or underwater down to a depth of 13,000 feet (about 4,000 meters).
“It is a remote area and it is a challenge to conduct a search in that remote area, but we are deploying all available assets to make sure that we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board,” Mauger said.
The missing vessel was designed with the capacity to be submerged for 96 hours, Mauger said, adding that “we anticipate there is somewhere between seventy and the full ninety six hours available at this point.”
The US and Canada have deployed some of their most advanced aircraft, including a Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport plane, a Boeing P-8 Poseidon, as well as sonar buoys.
Commercial companies are also expected to join the search.
The Polar Prince with the Titan had departed from St. John’s, on the Canadian island of Newfoundland, last week, according to local media.
The British passenger liner, which sank after hitting an iceberg in 1912, lies at a depth of around 3,800 meters and approximately 640 kilometers from Newfoundland.
OceanGate Expeditions said it is “exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely.”
“We are working toward the safe return of the crew members,” it added.
The company, headquartered in US’ Washington state, also expressed its appreciation for the “extensive assistance” received from governments and companies in reestablishing contact with the submersible.
The BBC reported that British billionaire businessman and explorer Hamish Harding, 58, is among those on the submersible, according to his family.
On his Facebook page, Harding announced June 18 that he had joined OceanGate Expeditions as a mission specialist on the submarine.
“Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023. A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow. We started steaming from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada yesterday and are planning to start dive operations around 4am tomorrow morning,” he wrote.
Harding shared a photo of himself signing a banner with the words “Titanic Expedition Mission V,” as well as images of the submersible and one of OceanGate’s vessels.
Mexican actor Alan Estrada, who last year traveled to the Titanic with the same company, said on Twitter that the submersible cannot be opened from the inside.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said on Twitter that “we are all anxiously awaiting a positive outcome in the coordinated search for the Titan submersible and the people onboard.”
“I have reached out to the [British High Commission and the US ambassador to Canada] and Chief Misel Joe to offer our province’s full support during this challenging situation,” Furey wrote. EFE