A manatee was tired and scratched up but alive after Fort Lauderdale rescue teams freed her from a storm drain tunnel Tuesday.
"She was beaten up pretty badly, but she was breathing," said Timothy Heiser, the deputy chief of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.
Fort Lauderdale Public Works employees discovered the manatee 15 feet below street level at 100 North New River Drive early Tuesday, stuck in a pipe system where storm water runoff collects.
The employees called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, which called the city Fire Rescue for some help because of her location.
Heiser said the pipes create a “whirlpool effect,” and the manatee was likely pushed into the grates and walls of the pipe. It was not clear how long she had been trapped.
Because the pipe was so deep, rescuers first had to monitor oxygen levels before being able to enter. Using ropes and harnesses, they were able to enter the pipe safely.
It took several hours, but with the help of nearly a dozen people, including the city Technical Rescue Team and divers, the hurt manatee was loaded onto a stretcher.
“It’s not easy lifting a nearly 500-pound manatee on a stretcher, 15 feet out of the water,” Heiser said.
But they managed, and the lucky manatee was packed in a truck, headed to the Miami Seaquarium for rehabilitation.