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CBP

Crews rescue 5 from flooded drainage pipe at San Diego-Mexico border

Border Fence Lines San Diego and Mexico (U.S. Customs and Border Protection/WikiCommons)

Emergency crews rescued five suspected unauthorized immigrants from the rising waters of a cross-border drainage tube Monday afternoon, authorities said.

The three men and two women, all believed to be Mexican citizens, were spotted entering the drainage culvert on the Mexican side of the border around 1 p.m., U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Jarrett Decker told OnScene TV.

Around 1:30 p.m., all five people came out of the drainage system on the north side of the border, in an area known as Canyon Del Sol near Dairy Mart Road and Clearwater Way, with the help of emergency crews from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and a lifeguard river rescue team, according to the firefighting agency and the Border Patrol.

“The water level was so high that only the heads of the subjects were visible above the waterline,” Border Patrol agent Justin Castrejon said in a statement.

Emergency crews provided medical aid and blankets to the people rescued at the scene before taking them to hospitals for further medical evaluation, authorities said.

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According to the Border Patrol, the drainage tubes that the group used to cross the border typically have grates to ensure that people don’t attempt to enter the country unlawfully, but those grates are lifted when there is heavy rain in the region.

“Any time we have storms, we have to open up the grates just due to the debris, it creates a lot of damming effects when we leave the grates closed,” Decker told OnScene TV.

But when the grates are opened, human smugglers send immigrants through the tubes in extremely risky crossing attempts, Decker said.

“It’s not only the rushing water, it’s the toxins found in the water, it makes it extremely dangerous to enter the water or even these confined spaces,” Decker said. “These confined spaces are tight, dark, could be cold, and who knows if the current is going to be very swift.”

The flooded drainage system that the group used Monday was the same one that 17 people tried to use on Thanksgiving night, when heavy rains pummeled the region and prompted authorities to open the grates. The majority of that group became trapped and required rescuing by San Diego firefighters and lifeguards.

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© 2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune