Three Cuban illegal immigrants have been rescued by the US Coast Guard from a Caribbean 'desert island' where they were stranded for over a month.
The two men and a woman, who have not ben named, survived for 33 days on the uninhabited Anguilla Cays of the Bahamas by eating coconuts, conches and rats.
They set off from Cuba in a small boat last month in an attempt to reach Florida in the USA, but they capsized in rough waters and had to swim to the island some 40 miles north of their homeland.
An MH-60 Seahawk from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, near Tampa, was sent and lowered food, water and a two-way radio to the trio the next day, locating them by flags they had placed and the figure of a cross they had laid out. Helicopter pilot Commander Mike Allert said the three showed signs of dehydration and fatigue, but were uninjured.
“We were alerted to them by the flags that they actually had in addition to a large cross that they put out there for themselves,” Allert said.
Coast Guard Lieutenant Justin Dougherty called their survival on the island with no fresh water "extraordinary", saying they probably subsisted on coconuts.
“That is pretty extraordinary. It was incredible,” Dougherty said. “I don’t know how they did it. I am amazed that they were in such good shape.”
The Coast Guard said the three had been transported to a hospital in the Florida Keys, and are now at an immigrant detention centre in Pompano Beach, Florida. Two of the three are reportedly a married couple.
That rule appears to have been waived in the case of the three castaways, although it was unclear if it signalled a change in policy.