Coast Guard Rescues 5 Off Florida Coast After 16 Days At Sea On Man-Made Raft

(Mauricio Duenas/AFP via Getty Images)

Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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The U.S. Coast Guard rescued five Cuban men near Florida’s southeast coast who said they had been floating at sea on a small man-made raft for 16 days since leaving Cuba, officials announced late Sunday.

The men were floating on the raft approximately two miles southeast of Lake Worth Inlet near the Port of Palm Beach when they were picked up by the Coast Guard Southeast due to “safety of life at sea concerns,” the agency stated. Images posted on Twitter show the men in a makeshift raft wrapped in black tubing with what appears to be a crudely made white sail.

The Coast Guard did not indicate whether the men would be repatriated to Cuba. The rescue is the latest in a series of incidents involving Cuban nationals intercepted by the Coast Guard near the coast of Florida, the Associated Press first reported.

The Coast Guard said in a statement Friday that the agency had repatriated seven Cuban nationals who had been at sea for six days in a roughly 15-foot makeshift boat made of aluminum and wood.

Officials said the boat was intercepted off Florida’s southeast coast last Wednesday approximately 35 miles east of West Palm Beach.

A similar rescue operation took place earlier this month after the Coast Guard identified three Cuban nationals who capsized and survived on a deserted island south of Florida for 33 days. They sustained themselves on nothing but coconut water, shellfish and rats. (RELATED: Coast Guard Calls Off One Search While Another Remains Underway, 16 People Missing)

“The Coast Guard and our partner agencies are aggressively maintaining a presence in the Florida Straits and discourage these dangerous and deadly voyages,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mario Gil, the Coast Guard’s liaison officer at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, in Friday’s statement. “U.S. policy is to carry out orderly, safe, and legal migration which we support through deterrence of unlawful maritime migration.”