SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday kept up its five-day seagoing detention of more than 650 illegal Chinese immigrants aboard three ships. One immigrant woman suffering from abdominal pains was taken by Coast Guard helicopter for emergency surgery, officials said.
Doctors at UC San Diego Medical Center performed surgery of an unspecified nature on the 19-year-old woman, identified as Shiuyun Zhou, a passenger on the disabled freighter Sing Li 6, one of the three vessels. She was resting in good condition Sunday afternoon.
Tom Banaszak, nursing supervisor at the medical center, said the woman was not suffering from appendicitis, as the Coast Guard had stated earlier, but he would not detail the nature of her condition. "The Coast Guard was not in a position to diagnose what she had," Banaszak said.
Otherwise, the ordeal continued for 658 other illegal immigrants being held at sea on the crowded, rusty smuggling vessels.
Diplomats were negotiating a request by the United States that Mexico allow the Chinese ashore in Ensenada to be processed and repatriated by Mexican authorities at U.S. expense.
Authorities spotted the vessels on July 3 and detained them last Tuesday about 60 miles west of Ensenada.
At least 10 Immigration and Naturalization Service officers have been brought aboard to interview all the immigrants, officials said.
In the case of the woman who fell ill, Coast Guard medical personnel decided early Sunday that she needed hospital care, officials said. A Coast Guard helicopter picked up Zhou at about 2 a.m. and flew her to the medical center, according to federal officials.
An Immigration and Naturalization Service officer was standing by at the hospital, according to INS spokesman Rudy Murillo. Zhou will remain hospitalized for several days, Banaszak said.
The immigration service granted Zhou a medical parole allowing her entry into the country, Murillo said. Under terms of the parole, she will be returned to the point where the parole was granted--in this case the ship--when she recovers, he said.