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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 20:19 GMT
Cuban survives stowaway ordeal
Havana and Montreal landscapes
The man left Havana (l) for Montreal
A stowaway has reached Montreal alive after clinging to the landing gear of a passenger plane on a freezing four-hour flight from Cuba.

The 22-year-old man survived low oxygen levels and temperatures that may have plummeted to minus 50C.


It was so cold

Unnamed stowaway

He was able to climb out of the wheel-well by himself after the Cubana jet landed at Montreal's Dorval airport.

Canadian immigration officials arrested him as he walked down the runway and a claim for asylum is being processed.

The Cuban, who has not been identified, told a French-language TV station in Canada that he travelled with only a flashlight and had just a light jacket to protect him from the cold.

Family left

"My thoughts were that I needed to reach Canada and survive," the man was quoted as telling TVA.

Map showing route from Havana to Cuba
"Sometimes, I lacked oxygen. It was so cold," said the asylum-seeker who clung to pipes to try to keep warm.

The man said he had left his wife, daughter and parents in Cuba but dreamt of getting a job in Canada and being reunited with them.

A spokesman for immigration authorities, Robert Gervais, said the Cuban - who said he was a worker at Havana airport - was lucky to be alive.

He told the Reuters news agency: "He suffered from hypothermia and we sent him to hospital. He was released a few hours later and has been in a detention centre since."

Mr Gervais said a refugee hearing would determine if the man would remain in custody while his application for asylum was considered.

'Saved by age'

An aviation expert told Reuters it was quite unusual for a stowaway to survive such an ordeal.

Yvan Miville-Deschenes, a pilot and a Quebec City-based aviation expert, said: "It is unbelievable."

He said temperatures in the landing gear bay would have been around -50C and suggested the man's youth may have helped him survive.

"He was saved by a lot of luck, and intelligence," he said.

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