Coast Guard: Number nearly double than 2004
The flow of Cuban migrants trying to reach the U.S. remains as busy as ever, the U.S. Coast Guard reported Tuesday.
Officials said that as of Dec. 16, 2,683 Cubans had been intercepted at sea in 2005. That is nearly double the number for all of 2004 and the highest level since the 1994 exodus sanctioned by Fidel Castro.
The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Vigilant, homeported in Cape Canaveral, has experienced first-hand the increase in the number of migrants attempting to reach the United States.
While patrolling the Florida Straits for two weeks, the Vigilant’s crew rescued or received from other patrolling Coast Guard cutters and boats more than 190 Cuban and Haitian migrants of all ages, including several infants.
As soon as the 210-foot cutter arrived in the “operational theater,” it responded to a multi-unit search-and-rescue case, assisting in the rescue of 34 Cuban migrants and three migrant smugglers from a speedboat attempting reach the United States. The vessel was taking on water and slowly sinking. Six people, including three children, were hoisted to safety by a Coast Guard helicopter as soon as the first rescuers arrived on scene.
The crew of the Vigilant also interdicted three migrant vessels, including a high-speed suspected smuggling speedboat, and two Cuban boats called chug-chugs that were modified boats with truck engines.
Throughout the patrol, the Vigilant has worked with several Key West-based patrol boats and Coast Guard Station Key West’s arsenal of small boats, intercepting migrants and transferring them to the Vigilant for screening.