MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – Nearly two dozen Cuban migrants were missing in the waters off the Florida Keys Wednesday morning after their vessel sank in the Straits of Florida, a U.S. Border Patrol official says.
Four migrants were able to swim to shore.
The group had been out at sea for five days. They spoke exclusively with Local 10 News Wednesday night, describing a harrowing journey.
“We were close to the coast of Cuba for two days and two nights and they didn’t rescue us,” one migrant said. “13 miles away, we lit things up and nothing. Two days, close to Cuba’s coast and no one rescued us.”
That migrant described extreme weather conditions.
“Waves 15 meters high, waves, waves ,waves, waves,” he said. “There was so much rain and on the third day we were left without water.”
Migrant speaks (Spanish):
After being detained, four of the migrants were released to their families Wednesday afternoon. Four others remain in U.S. Border Patrol custody.
“From Friday at one in the morning until Tuesday, we spent six days out at sea,” one of the migrants said in Spanish to Local 10 News, adding that they made the incredibly dangerous journey, “for the right to be free.”
“It’s dangerous, but being free is worth more than the risk we are taking,” he said.
Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar, who leads the Border Patrol’s Miami sector, tweeted that the four migrants who made it to shore landed on Stock Island, immediately east of Key West.
Slosar, attributed the sinking to “inclement weather.”
Just before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard tweeted that its crews rescued three migrants from the water about two miles south of Boca Chica Key.
Those three migrants were taken to a local hospital for symptoms of exhaustion and dehydration, officials said, adding to the four migrants evaluated at the hospital after swimming ashore.
Air crews continued to search for the remaining missing migrants Thursday.
Slosar tweeted Thursday afternoon that officials had “safely located and rescued” nine migrants. It’s unclear if those were in addition to the migrants rescued Wednesday.
The U.S. Coast Guard shared a video showing search and rescue efforts Thursday morning.
#UPDATE @USCG air crews continue to search for the reported missing people in the water after an illegal migration venture failed off the #FloridaKeys.— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) September 29, 2022
Our ships are patrolling the #FloridaStraits assisting with search and rescue. #DontTakeToTheSea @USEmbCuba pic.twitter.com/nsWpiFQ9Z3
Officials have warned migrants against taking to the seas in general, but especially during hurricane conditions, which make an already treacherous journey even more perilous.
On Tuesday, as weather conditions deteriorated, a group of seven Cuban migrants made it to shore on Pompano Beach.