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Escape from Cuba – migrants tell of 23 days adrift at sea

Escape from Cuba: migrants tell of 23 days adrift at sea
Just 15 of 32 people who left on home-made boat bound for US survived
the journey
Sun, Oct 5, 2014, 13:16

A group of Cuban migrants drank their own urine and blood after the
engine of their homemade boat failed, leaving them adrift in the
Caribbean for three weeks without food or water.
“I’m happy I made it, alive, but it was something no-one should have to
go through,” said Alain Izquierdo, a Havana butcher, and one of 15
survivors among the 32 passengers.
Six passengers are missing after they tried to swim to shore, while 11
others died of dehydration.
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“I just feel sad for those who didn’t make it,” said Izquierdo, sitting
under a sun shade by the pool of his uncle and aunt’s home in Port St
Lucie, on Florida’s east coast.
The survivors were rescued by Mexican fishermen 240 km northeast of
Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and were briefly detained in Mexico before
being released late last month.
Their story is one of the most tragic Cuban migrant disasters in decades.
Reuters spoke to several of the passengers and their relatives in
Florida and Texas, although some were still too traumatised to talk
publicly about the experience.
Cubans seeking to flee the communist-run island are heading in
increasing numbers by sea to Central America and then making a long
journey overland to reach the United States.
Under Washington’s “wet foot, dry foot policy,” Cuban migrants who make
it onto US soil are allowed to remain, while those intercepted at sea
are turned back.
The group set off from eastern Cuba in early August, but ran into
trouble about 70km from the Cayman Islands when the boat’s motor – a
Hyundai diesel car engine, attached to a homemade propeller – failed on
the second day at sea, said Izquierdo (32).
The 20-foot, home-made craft, made from aluminum roofing sheets riveted
together and sealed with cloth and resin, drifted up the Cuban coast as
the passengers tried to flag down passing ships.
“No-one stopped even though they could see we were desperate,” said
Mailin Perez (30), another survivor recovering in Austin, Texas.
The passengers heaved the engine overboard to reduce weight and
fashioned a makeshift sail from sheets sewn together with cord.
Six of the men decided to swim for the Cuban coast clinging to inner
tubes, but have not been heard from since.
Brief rain showers every three or four days provided the only water,
rationed out in doses by medical syringes. One woman who was six months
pregnant received extra rations.
One by one, 11 passengers died. Their bodies, lips swollen, were slid
overboard, and floated off into the distance, a sight that one survivor
said haunts her in nightmares.

Source: Escape from Cuba: migrants tell of 23 days adrift at sea –
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/escape-from-cuba-migrants-tell-of-23-days-adrift-at-sea-1.1952550

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