A boat carrying 649kg of cocaine worth an estimated $80m (£61m) has washed up in the Marshall Islands.
Officials believe it may have drifted across the Pacific from South or Central America, possibly spending one or two years at sea.
Image: Marshall Islands police destroyed the drugs in an incinerator
Marshall Islands police destroyed the drugs on Tuesday by burning them in an incinerator.
The 5.4m fibreglass boat was discovered on a beach at Ailuk Atoll by Kosby Alfred, one of the area’s 400 residents.
When islanders could not lift the boat onto the beach, they investigated further and found a hidden compartment under the deck.
It had been sealed to hide hundreds of 1kg “bricks” of cocaine wrapped in plastic and stamped with the initials “KW”.
The residents notified police, who transported the drugs back to the capital of Majuro, on another island.
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Only 2kg were saved for the US Drug Enforcement Agency to conduct analysis, authorities said.
Image: The cocaine was taken to the capital, Majuro
They are numerous theories about the drugs washing up; a shipment going wrong due to the loss of a radio beacon, a bad storm, or problems with the boat’s engine.
Residents were praised for notifying authorities.
Sometimes wash-ups on remote islands go unreported and find their way onto the illegal market.
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November: Smugglers dump drugs in sea in dramatic chase
Islands in the Pacific are on a major international drug trafficking route, so it is not the first time large drug packages have been found.
Officials told Radio New Zealand the largest previous find of cocaine in the Marshall Islands – some 2,300 miles from northeast Australia – was about 40 kg.
Nearly 18kg were also discovered by a resident in 2016, who was arrested for not immediately handing it in.
A fisherman reeled in 48kg of suspected cocaine in 2018, and police believe another cache may have washed up in Maleolap Atoll this year.
The Marshall Islands parliament established a drug task force in May to tackle the issue.
Source : Sky News