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Carnival cruise ship rescues 24 refugees adrift off Cuba, photos show

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Carnival cruise ship returned to Tampa, Fla., Thursday with more passengers on board than when it left.

On a trip to Honduras and Mexico, the Carnival Paradise came to the rescue of two dozen refugees from Cuba, footage shared with Nexstar’s WFLA shows.

Herman Bips, a Carnival Paradise passenger, told WFLA’s Jeff Patterson that he noticed a shift in gear during the trip, which was his first indication that something was wrong.

“It was Sunday afternoon around 4 a.m. and the ship felt like it was coming to a halt,” Bips said.

On the horizon, he could see a small dot that looked like a boat. When the cruise ship approached, Bips could see an overloaded ship in poor condition.

“Very poor [shape]”, said Bips. “Someone said he was actually leaking and they were bailing out.

The captain of the Paradise told his passengers that under maritime law he would lend aid and assistance to the vessel in difficulty.

“At that point, I think he knew he had to get people on board,” Bips said. “I understand they gave them clothes, medical care, water, food but they isolated them in a specific area.”

A Carnival spokesperson confirmed that the Paradise rescued 24 people from a small boat adrift southwest of Cuba. The ship’s crew provided food, water and medical assistance.

When the Paradise returned to port in Tampa this week, 21 men and three women from Cuba were handed over to US Coast Guard custody. The WFLA has learned that it is likely that they will all be returned to Cuba.

“I was very sad, I mean it almost brought tears to my eyes that people were so desperate to leave a country and put themselves [at risk]”, said Bips. “You know, if we hadn’t seen them, they probably would have drowned.


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