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18 Cuban migrants rescued by cruise ship off Florida coast, 9 others dead

By Daniel Uria   |   March 19, 2016 at 4:26 PM

MARCO ISLAND , Fla., March 19 (UPI) -- A group of 18 Cuban migrants were rescued by a cruise ship of the western coast of Florida, according the U.S. Coast Guard.

The migrants were picked up by Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas just west of Marco Island, Fla. while on its way to Cozumel, Mexico, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

The Coast Guard said the migrants were suffering from dehydration after leaving Cuba 22 days ago. Nine others who started the journey died along the way, the migrants told authorities.

"Our deepest condolences to the families of the nine people who recently did lose their lives,"Capt. Mark Gordon said. "Unfortunately, tragedy is all too common when taking to the sea in homemade vessels with no safety or navigation equipment."

The group will continue to travel to the cruise ship's next port of call in Mexico.

The Coast Guard said they have observed in increase in Cubans attempting to reach the United States by sea since the U.S. announced normalized relations with Cuba in Dec. 2014. 269 recorded attempts of migrants attempting to reach the U.S. have occurred in the month of February alone.

Grodon warned against the arduous trip, noting that the water in the area can be dangerous.

"The dangerous waters of the Florida Straits can be unforgiving for the unprepared on ill advised and illegal voyages," he said. "Immigration policies have not changed and we urge people not to take to the ocean in unseaworthy vessels. It is illegal and extremely dangerous."

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