December 6, 2022

A cruise ship rescues Cuban migrants stranded at sea

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(CNN) — Six Cuban migrants adrift at sea on a makeshift raft were rescued by a cruise ship last week, video shared with CNN shows.

The video captured the impromptu encounter on Friday of last week as the Carnival Paradise cruise ship sailed from Tampa, Florida, to Cozumel, Mexico.

The clip shows passengers clapping and cheering as the migrants approach the ship.

“They didn’t have oars,” said passenger Cintia Zingoni, who recorded the video. “It wasn’t really a ship. It was a piece of furniture, maybe a cupboard and they made it like a ship.”

Zingoni, a real estate agent from Orlando, Florida, was on the boat with her family and friends when they witnessed the event.

His video shows what appears to be a small piece of cloth that the migrants were using as a sail and Styrofoam attached to the sides of their boat for buoyancy. Zingoni said it also appeared that the migrants were using a pot lid to row.

The migrants were welcomed aboard the ship, where they received a medical check-up, food and clothing, according to Carnival Cruise Lines spokesman Matt Lupoli. When the ship arrived in Cozumel, they were turned over to Mexican authorities, he said.

According to Zingoni, the ship’s captain announced to passengers that the migrants were dehydrated but otherwise fine.

“I felt sad. Everyone on the ship was dancing and having fun and they were dying,” Zingoni said. “It was almost a suicide mission to go into that piece of wood.”

A screenshot from the video shows the migrants’ makeshift raft.

His traveling companion, Lee Smith, said the weather that night turned for the worse.

“As we headed to Mexico we were going fast to make up for lost time, but there was a thunderstorm and lightning behind us in the area where we had left,” he said. “Good thing we picked up the people from the raft.”

The dramatic rescue comes as US officials report a surge in Cubans trying to leave the communist-ruled island, who blame US sanctions for a crumbling economy.

Cubans who arrive in the United States and apply for asylum usually obtain permanent residency under a special status granted by the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1962. Cubans picked up at sea by the US Coast Guard are often returned to the island.

As Cuba grapples with mounting power outages and food shortages, a record number of Cubans have left the island by crossing into the United States from the southern border with Mexico or setting out to sea in small boats and rafts that authorities say Americans, are often pushed by ocean currents.

According to the US Customs and Border Protection Service, more than 175,000 Cubans have arrived in the United States from Mexico since July of last year. In the same period, more than 4,500 Cubans intercepted at sea have been returned to Cuba, the Coast Guard said in a statement Tuesday.

It is not unusual for cruise ships to assist in sea rescues. On June 4, Carnival’s Mardi Gras cruise rescued 16 Cubans stranded about 60 nautical miles from Key West, Florida.



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