The United States Coast Guard said on Saturday that a cruise ship off the Florida coast on Friday rescued 18 Cuban migrants who said that nine fellow travellers died during their 22-day-long journey.
According to the Coast Guard, the migrants were picked up by Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship, west of Marco Island. The rescued migrants were suffering from severe dehydration and they said that nine others had already died, the Coast Guard said.
"Our deepest condolences to the families of the nine people who recently did lose their lives," said Coast Guard Captain, Mark Gordon, who heads up enforcement for the Coast Guard 7th District.
"Unfortunately, tragedy is all too common when taking to the sea in homemade vessels with no safety or navigation equipment," he added.
The Coast Guard has not yet confirmed the veracity of the statements.
The 18 survivors would be taken to the cruise ship’s next port of call in Cozumel, Mexico, the Coast Guard said.
The rescues come just days ahead of US President Barack Obama's scheduled visit to Cuba, which will be the first by a sitting US president in 88 years.
On Friday, Coast Guard officials also repatriated 42 other migrants to Cuba following two interceptions earlier in the week.
The Coast Guard said that it has seen a steady increase in illegal immigration attempts to the US southeast from Cuba since diplomatic relations between the two countries were normalised in late 2014.