The full extent of notorious gang leader El Chapo’s astonishing escape has been revealed by satellite images of the area surrounding the top security Mexican jail.
Aerial images of the jail and the surrounding countryside reveal just how complex the escape operation was, as a construction site sprang up over the course of a year just a mile from the Altiplano jail.
Given the sheer size of the operation, questions are being asked as to how no one at the jail reported noticing anything out of the ordinary.
Billionaire cartel leader Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman began his escape at 8.52pm on Saturday.
He entered the shower block at the high-security prison and, unnoticed by any guards, pried open a 50cm by 50cm grill in the floor of the shower block and climbed 32 feet down a ladder into a tunnel below the prison.
From there he used a motorbike that was waiting at the bottom for him to ride through the tunnel to freedom.
A miracle of subterranean construction, the remarkable tunnel was complete with air vents, electric lights, emergency oxygen tanks.
Although not a tall man – El Chapo means ‘the shorty’ in Spanish – the 5ft 6in gang lord was able to make his getaway standing upright in the 5.57 feet-high tunnel.
There was even a motorbike fitted to rails inside the tunnel to help remove the tonnes of earth when it was being built.
Neighbours have reported that a team of no more than four men were involved in constructing the tunnel, but the skilled workers stuck to a gruelling schedule of 10 hours a day for almost an entire year.
The engineers were forced to twice change the direction of the tunnel, in order to avoid the most sensitive areas of the prison, located 50 miles outside of Mexico City.
The underground getaway route carved a nearly mile-long path deep below the prison, before opening into a construction site in Santa Juana, hidden inside a ready-made house that was simple and understated.
The ramshackle and unfinished building housed two bedrooms and a cellar of 110-square-metres, from which the construction of the tunnel began.
While inside the building, it has been reported that the crime lord took his time, using the bathroom and collecting a change of clothes before once again disappearing into the Mexican countryside, eluding the authorities for the second time in 15 years.
The operation to construct the tunnel was enormous, and required extensive and precise planning with the help of detailed blueprints of the prison, obtained by El Chapo’s men.
More than 3,250 tonnes of earth had to be removed and transported away from the site; the tunnel was nearly a mile long, 80cm wide and nearly two-metres tall, and would have produced 2,652 cubic metres of earth.
Once the earth was removed from the tunnel it was stored in a warehouse onsite, and from their taken away in trucks in tens of thousands of bags.
The sheer quantity of earth being removed would have required 379 dump trucks driving to and from the Santa Juana construction site.
Staff at the Altiplano prison are equipped with radar and electronic depth testing equipment which they are required to use regularly, specifically in order to check for tunnels.
Martin Barron, a security specialist for the National Institute of Penal Sciences, told Argentina’s La Nacion: ‘Since 1991, the prison has had sensors in the surroundings to stop anyone escaping.
‘It was said that it would be impossible to build a tunnel within the prison’s perimeters, let alone one of almost a mile.
‘This shows us that either the sensors were not working well, or they had been disconnected.’
Nearby construction said to be connected to a water reservoir project, aiming to bring water from the west of the capital into Mexico City, would have helped avoid arousing suspicion.
The company responsible for the construction, Cutzamala Constructions, reportedly started the job around 14 months ago.
But some of the pipes have still not been laid and workers admitted they did not know why the work was taking place in that area.
But kingpin El Chapo is no stranger to subterranean getaways.
The Sinaloa cartel has a long history of tunnel building for stashing contraband and hiding its leaders, and even has its own engineering division to carry out the work.