The U.S. Coast Guard rescued three Cuban nationals who were stranded for more than a month on a desert island in the Bahamas on Tuesday. The two men and a woman survived by eating conchs and rats, a Coast Guard official told a Florida news station.
A Coast Guard surveillance plane spotted the castaways during a routine patrol Monday, the agency said in a statement. "They noticed some unusual flags down there, some different colors, so they noticed some orange," Lieutenant Justin Dougherty told WPLG-TV. "They went back around to check it out, and they noticed three people signaling them."
Aircraft commander Mike Allert told the station the trio ate conchs and rats to survive and that they set up a large cross on Anguilla Cay, Bahamas. The Coast Guard released a picture showing the makeshift shelter the castaways used.
The Cubans said they were on the island for 33 days, the Coast Guard said. Their boat capsized and they swam to the atoll, Dougherty told WPLG-TV.
The surveillance plane's aircrew dropped food, water and a radio to the castaways, the Coast Guard said. A helicopter crew later hoisted them from the island and took them to a hospital in Key West, Florida.
"Our rescue swimmer found them to be fatigued, dehydrated and showing definite signs of just being out in the elements for the extended amount of time that they were there," Allert told WPLG-TV. The Coast Guard said they were uninjured.
It wasn't immediately clear if the Cubans were lost fishermen or trying to migrate to another country, Petty Officer Second Class Brandon Murray told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.