Miami, Jan 15 (EFE).- A Royal Caribbean cruise ship heading for The Bahamas on the weekend rescued 17 Cuban migrants who were adrift on board a small boat, the company reported.
On Saturday, the Liberty of the Seas spotted “a small vessel adrift and in need of assistance,” the Miami-based cruise line said in a statement.
“The ship’s crew immediately launched a rescue operation, safely bringing 17 people onboard,” the company said, adding that “The crew is actively giving them medical attention, and working with the United States Coast Guard.”
After the rescue and after providing medical attention to the migrants, the cruise vessel turned the Cubans over to the Coast Guard.
The Cubans said that they had been at sea for “weeks,” according to what cruise passenger and eyewitness to the rescue operation Josh Levine told local WPTV television.
“Honestly, my heart broke for them. To be out at sea for 15 or 16 days trying to escape your country for a better life, you have to be going through a lot,” cruise passenger Mark Jackson told the TV station, adding that “It’s kind of a blessing that we didn’t end up going to dock at CocoCay, because who knows if another cruise line or ship would’ve picked them up or seen them.”
The Liberty of the Seas had been scheduled to stop at CocoCay in the Bahamas on Saturday but due to rough seas, it could not dock there and remained at sea.
In early January, the crews of two cruise vessels plying different routes in the Caribbean rescued 24 migrants who were on board fragile boats and seeking to reach the Florida coast.
Last week, Celebrity Cruise Capt. Kate McCue posted a video – which went viral – of her crew’s successful rescue of 19 migrants off the Florida coast.
Florida in recent weeks has seen a noteworthy increase in the arrival of illegal migrants, most of them coming from Cuba and Haiti, as well as interceptions of migrants’ boats all the state’s lengthy coastline.
On Friday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management said that since last August more than 5,200 undocumented migrants have arrived in the state on 306 rickety boats and some 8,400 migrants have been intercepted at sea and returned to their home countries.