The four men and one woman were discovered inside the tunnel partly filled with sewage in Otay Mesa. The tunnel is believed to lead to Mexico, which is about 150 meters away.
The five were trapped at a point in the tunnel where a fence made it impossible to get through to the U.S.
U.S. Border Patrol agents used a dog to find the opening in the 9800 block of Via De La Amistad behind a company called Artic Containers.
Agents believe a manhole on the Mexican side is the entrance.
San Diego and Chula Vista firefighters worked for about 45 minutes to dig out the trapped victims, bringing them out one by one.
They then hosed down each person because of their exposure to sewage. The men were stripped to their underwear. The woman was taken behind a tarp where she was hosed off.
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