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California woman rescued after 15 hours on sinking raft

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A California woman who set out to sea in an inflatable dinghy to watch the sunset, spent about 15 hours clinging to the raft after it began taking on water in frigid Monterey Bay, before the U.S. Coast Guard plucked her to safety on Thursday.

Two fishermen spotted the woman adrift 2 miles off the shore of Monterey on Wednesday and they called the Coast Guard to send a rescue boat, agency spokesman Roy Olson said.

"She seemed to be doing very well, especially for being stranded in 53-degree (12 Celsius) water," Monterey Fire Division Chief Felix Colello said. "I don't know how she survived that, to be honest with you."

She suffered mild hypothermia, but she was alert, said Colello, who was present for the recovery off the Central California coast. The woman, 45, was taken to a local hospital, and it was not immediately known whether she had been released.

She is not being identified but is believed to have been visiting the area from Southern California, officials said.

Colello said the woman had set off to watch the sunset in a motor-propelled, inflatable dinghy on Tuesday evening, and the engine fell off, leaving a hole that allowed water to flow in. The dinghy was 80 percent submerged when Coast Guard and Monterey Fire Department rescuers reached her.

Hypothermia typically kicks in after about 30 minutes in water that cold, Colello said. He added that the woman was wearing regular clothes and a life vest, which likely helped save her by keeping her warmer and afloat in the ocean.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Gunna Dickson)

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