U.S. authorities on Wednesday announced the discovery of the longest smuggling tunnel ever found on the Southwest border, stretching more than three-quarters of a mile from an industrial site in Tijuana, Mexico, to the San Diego area.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it featured an extensive rail/cart system, forced air ventilation, high voltage electrical cables and panels, an elevator at the tunnel entrance, and a complex drainage system.
â€œThis one blows past (the second-longest),â€ said Lance LeNoir, a Border Patrol operations supervisor. â€œWe never really thought they had the moxie to go that far. They continue to surprise me.â€
The tunnel raised questions about the effectiveness of President Donald Trumpâ€™s border wall, which stretches several feet underground in the area. The tunnel was found about 70 feet underground, well below the wall.
Following the discovery in August, Mexican law enforcement identified the entrance and members of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force began mapping the tunnel that extends a total of 4,309 feet. (1,313 meters). The next longest tunnel in the U.S. was discovered in San Diego in 2014. It was 2,966 feet (904 meters) long.
The newly discovered tunnel is about 5.5 feet (1.68 meters) tall and 2 feet (0.61 meters) wide and runs at an average depth of 70 feet (21.3 meters) below the surface, officials said.
Agents discovered several hundred sandbags blocking a suspected former exit of the tunnel in the Otay Mesa warehouse district within the U.S.
It was discovered by authorities in August but has only now been revealed.
San Diego customs official Cardell Morant said: â€œThe sophistication and length of this tunnel demonstrates the time-consuming efforts transnational criminal organizations will undertake to facilitate cross-border smuggling.â€
Authorities didnâ€™t say who they believe was behind the tunnel but the area has been a stronghold of Mexicoâ€™s Sinaloa cartel. The cartelâ€™s longtime leader, Joaquin â€œEl Chapoâ€ Guzman, was sentenced to life in U.S. prison in July.