Videos Show Cruise Ship Rescuing Migrants on Small Boat Off Florida Coast

Passengers who were on the Celebrity Beyond cruise ship said they were about 200 miles from Fort Lauderdale Monday when they came across the boat

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Dramatic videos show a cruise ship rescuing a group of migrants on a makeshift boat off Florida's coast amid a massive influx of people trying to reach the U.S. in recent days.

Passengers who were on the Celebrity Beyond cruise ship said they were about 200 miles from Fort Lauderdale Monday when they came across the boat.

The Beyond's captain, Kate McCue, documented her crew's efforts to get the people to safety in a video posted on social media.

McCue said she stopped the ship, turned it around and the migrants were brought on board where they were given blankets, meals and medical evaluations.

Andres Brender, a reporter for Telemundo Bay Area, happened to be on the ship and also filmed the rescue.

"Everybody went to one side of the boat, started filming," Brender said. "They got them inside, the captain said they went through a health check. She said that they are all healthy, and we had to wait for instructions from customs."

NBC 6's Julia Bagg has more on the growing number of migrants arriving in recent weeks.

A total of 19 people were on the small boat. It was unknown where they were coming from.

"We're all human beings, when you see someone that's in need, they were obviously in need, super small raft, that's something human to do," Brender said.

In a separate incident, crew members aboard the Carnival Celebration spotted five people in distress on a small vessel about 29 miles northwest of Cuba.

Once the migrants were rescued from their drifting boat, the Celebration crew members contacted the U.S. Coast Guard, which took them into custody offshore, said Matt Lupoli, a spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line.

"The ship resumed on its voyage with its scheduled itinerary unaffected and Carnival Celebration returned to Miami on Tuesday morning after a week-long Caribbean cruise," Lupoli said in an email.

The incidents come as at least 500 migrants have arrived in small boats along the Florida Keys over the last several days in what the local sheriff's office described on Monday as a "crisis."

NBC 6's Victor Jorges has more on what those on board the boat had to say amid the ongoing migrant crisis.

Economic turmoil, food shortages and soaring inflation in Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean is spurring the most recent wave of migration. Over the weekend, 300 migrants arrived at the sparsely populated Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of Key West. The park was closed so that law enforcement and medical personnel could evaluate the group before moving them to Key West, the park tweeted.

Separately, 160 migrants arrived by boats in other parts of the Florida Keys over the New Year's Day weekend, officials said. On Monday, 30 people in two new groups of migrants were found in the Middle Keys.

In a news release, Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay criticized the federal response to the uptick in migrant arrivals, saying they were stretching local resources. U.S. Border Patrol told the sheriff’s office that the federal response to some of the migrants arriving may have to wait a day, the news release said.

“Refugee arrivals require a lot of resources from the Sheriff’s Office as we help our federal law enforcement partners ensure the migrants are in good health and safe,” said Ramsay, whose office's jurisdiction encompasses the Florida Keys. “This shows a lack of a working plan by the federal government to deal with a mass migration issue that was foreseeable."

Officials at Dry Tortugas National Park said they expected it be closed for several days because of the space and resources needed to attend to the migrants. The national park is at the southern tip of the continental U.S. — and attracts scuba divers and snorkelers for its coral reefs, nesting sea turtles, tropical fish and shipwrecks.

“Like elsewhere in the Florida Keys, the park has recently seen an increase in people arriving by boat from Cuba and landing on the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park," the National Park Service said in a news release.

In addition to landing at the national park over the weekend, 160 other migrants arrived in the Middle and Upper Keys. At least 88 of the migrants are from Cuba, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a tweet.

U.S. Border Patrol and Coast Guard crews patrolling South Florida and the Keys have been experiencing the largest escalation of migrations by boat in nearly a decade, with hundreds of interceptions in recent months, mostly of people from Cuba and Haiti.

NBC 6 and AP
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