SPI Coast Guard finds uninhabited refugee raft

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A cobbled together raft, showing signs of use, has floated past the local coastline and into Mexican waters, according to the local U.S. Coast Guard commander.

The "rustica," as it's called by Coast Guardsmen, was found uninhabited 2 miles off South Padre Island. It bears signs similar to improvised watercraft used by Cuban migrants attempting to wade to the Florida Coast.

Cuba is more than 800 miles from South Padre Island.

It's suspected the raft floated from Cuba, or possibly another point of origin, said Lt. Shane Gunderson, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Station South Padre Island, who noted its characteristics.

"Commonly called Cuban rusticas or just rusticas," said Gunderson. "Much more common in Florida and that area, where you have a lot of more migrant traffic coming from the islands up to the mainland."

Nobody was onboard, but there were signs the raft was occupied at some point.

Gunderson said a crew from Coast Guard Station South Padre Island followed procedure, checking for signs the raft was recently used, or if anyone fell overboard.

"You can see some packages of food onboard. There's some containers onboard," he said. "But nothing to indicate that it had been recently occupied."

Photos of the raft were shared online by Captain Jeff Hartung, with Playin Hooky Fishing Charters.

Gunderson noted the raft was previously marked 'OK' by another boater, indicating it was checked and found empty in the past.

The raft continues floating along the Gulf currents, a rarity this far away from Cuba.

"Mostly because they're not considerably seaworthy," said Gunderson.


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