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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 23:33 GMT 00:33 UK
Cubans aim for Florida by truck
Cubans' improvised motor boat
Cubans fleeing the island use inner tubes, surfboards and rickety rafts
A group of 12 creative Cuban migrants have used a 1951 Chevrolet pick-up truck equipped with floats to make a break for the United States.

The converted flatbed truck-turned-boat sailed to within 65km (40 miles) of the United States, over half the distance from Cuba.

But the US Coast Guard intercepted the vessel and repatriated the nine men, two women and one child.

Under US immigration policy, any Cubans reaching land are allowed entry, but any stopped at sea are returned home.

The vessel, which used empty barrels to float, was cruising towards the Florida coastline at about 13km/h (eight miles per hour) using a propeller attached to the truck's driveshaft when it was spotted by a US plane.

The Cubans said that they had driven to the shore in the truck, belonging the uncle of one of the would-be migrants, and converted it on the beach.

"We assembled everything in six hours," Perez Gras told the Associated Press.

"If they had let us get to Key West, we would have been able to drive it right onto the sand," he said.

Several of the men sat atop the green truck and others were apparently under the bright yellow canopy that covered the back of the vehicle.

It had been at sea for 31 hours by the time it was intercepted.

When US officials saw the boat, "they couldn't believe their eyes", the Coast Guard said in a statement.

"The drive shaft of the truck had been dropped from the back axle and was now used to turn a propeller. 55-gallon drums had been lashed together to form a pontoon on either side of the vehicle," the statement said.

"We thought that they would let us in because it was so outrageous," said another member of the group.

But for all its inventiveness, the truck fared no better than its passengers and did not make it to land.

It was sunk by the US Coast Guard who deemed it "a hazard to navigation".

Three killed in Cuban hijacks
15 Jul 03  |  Americas
Cuban hijackers jailed
17 May 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Cuba
04 Jun 03  |  Country profiles


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