US & Canada

Iranian rescued trying to reach Bermuda from US in bubble

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Media captionReza Baluchi's rescue was captured on camera

An attempt by an Iranian exile to travel more than 1,000 miles (1,600km) from Florida to Bermuda in a giant inflatable ball has ended in failure.

Reza Baluchi, an endurance runner, was rescued by the US Coast Guard on Saturday after suffering from fatigue.

The Coast Guard had asked him to halt his attempt last Wednesday after he was found disoriented and inquiring how to get to Bermuda, but he refused.

Image copyright AP
Image caption US Coast Guard crew rescued Iranian Reza Baluchi and his bubble on Saturday off the coast of Florida

He was granted asylum in the US in 2003 after fleeing Iran.

In a post on his website, the peace activist said he was attempting the journey in his homemade Hydro Pod to raise money for children and to "inspire those that have lost hope for a better future".

He said he had planned every detail in order to survive the challenge. He described himself as an "excellent fisherman," saying he would survive on protein bars on days he was unable to catch any fish.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Baluchi was airlifted to safety and found to be uninjured. He was said to be recovering from the feat

US Coast Guard spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo said they had first received reports of the giant inflatable ball 70 nautical miles off the US coast last Wednesday.

A Coast Guard crew made contact with Mr Baluchi to convey the dangers of his trip and ask him to end it, Ms Fajardo said, but he had refused.

She said he was eventually rescued on Saturday morning after activating his locator beacon due to fatigue.

Mr Baluchi's homemade Hydro Pod is a large ball made of 3mm-thick (0.12 inches) plastic and has a paddle system that propels it forward when someone runs inside it.

The Iranian man has made headlines in the past with previous efforts to break long-distance running and cycling records, including one six-month journey in which he ran around the perimeter of the US.

He also successfully tested the Hydro Pod in 2013, according to his website, taking about 12 hours to travel 33 miles (53 km) from the Californian coast to Catalina Island.

He sought refuge in the US in 2003 after being arrested in Iran for anti-Islamic activities, including eating during the holy month of Ramadan, according to his lawyer at the time, Suzannah Maclay.

Ms Maclay said he had also served 18 months in prison in Iran for associating with "counter-revolutionaries".

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