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Carnival ship returns to Port Miami after rescuing Cuban migrants at sea

Carnival ship returns to Miami after rescuing Cuban migrants at sea
Carnival ship returns to Miami after rescuing Cuban migrants at sea 01:47

MIAMI - A Carnival cruise ship that rescued a group of Cuban migrants at sea returned to Port Miami on Tuesday.

Carnival said after the crew of the Celebration rescued the five people, they were turned over to the US Coast Guard which took them to an area near Key West.

Lourdes Simon was on the Celebration with her family. They were heading back on their last sea day when they saw the migrants in desperate need of help as they neared the coast of Cuba.

"They were in clear distress, they were waving," said Simon.

She said they could tell that they were not in great condition.

"They had a small boat, it looked like a weed wackier as the engine, and then they had a small sail and two gentlemen were actually paddling," she said.

Simon said everyone was emotionally invested in the moment, those on the ship were calling out, making sure they were okay while they were being rescued.

"It was so emotional, people were crying, cheering when they made it on board, praying, it was just very emotional. I feel like (the) 3,000 people on that ship reconsider the plight of the Cuban people in one hour. It was amazing," said Simon.

She said later on, as they continued towards South Florida, they saw another vessel but it was empty.

As for the five that were rescued, she said "the Coast Guard came later on a few hours later and transported them off our ship."

The five who were rescued were part of a larger number of migrants who made the dangerous journey to Florida.

On Monday, Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys was temporarily closed to the public due to an influx of migrants from Cuba.

The closure is expected to last several days "while law enforcement and medical personnel evaluate, provide care for and coordinate transport to Key West for approximately 300 migrants who arrived in the park over the past couple of days," according to a National Park Service release.

The park is about 70 miles west of Key West and is only accessible by boat or seaplane.

According to a tweet from Homeland Security Task Force Southeast region, federal, state, and local authorities are "aware of multiple migrant landings this weekend" on Dry Tortugas.

The condition and the exact number of migrants being processed are unclear.

On New Year's Day alone, over 160 migrants were encountered in the Florida Keys, according to a series of tweets from Walter N. Slosar, a US Border Patrol chief patrol agent. There were about 88 migrants encountered in the area on New Year's Eve, said Slosar.

In October and November, there were nearly 14,000 Cuban migrant encounters in the state, compared to about 35,000 for the 12 months up to September 30, 2022, US Customs and Border Protection data shows. 

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