Twenty Cuban migrants are unaccounted for after their boat sank near the Florida Keys on Wednesday (September 28) as Hurricane Ian approached.
According to Reuters, 27 Cuban migrants boarded the boat. Four of them were able to swim to shore on their own when the storm hit, while another three were rescued by the United States Coast Guard. All seven migrants who made it to shore were taken to a hospital for exhaustion and dehydration.
“U.S. Border Patrol agents along with support from [the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office] responded to a migrant landing in Stock Island Florida,” tweeted Chief Patrol Agent Walter N. Slosar with the U.S. Border Patrol’s Miami sector. “Four Cuban migrants swam to shore after their vessel sank due to inclement weather. [U.S. Coast Guard Seventh District] initiated a [search and rescue] operation to search for 23 individuals.”
According to NBC News, the boat sank approximately two hours before Hurricane Ian made landfall on the southwest coast of Florida. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told the network that the incident is under investigation.
On Tuesday (September 27), Hurricane Ian made landfall in Cuba and knocked out power to the entire island, leaving 11 million people in the dark. Two people were killed in the western province of Pinar del Rio. The storm came at a time when Cuban residents are suffering from a major economic crisis, which has led to shortages in food, medicine, and fuel.
“It was apocalyptic, a real disaster,” Cuban tobacco farmer Hirochi Robaina told NPR.