Carnival cruise ship saves 24 refugees

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

During a trip to Honduras and Mexico, Carnival Paradise rescued two dozen refugees from Cuba, images shared with the WFLA Nexstar show.

Herman Bips, a passenger on Carnival Paradise, told WFLA’s Jeff Patterson he noticed a change in speed during the trip, which was his first indication that something was up.

“It was Sunday afternoon around 4 o’clock and the ship felt like it was about to stop,” said Bips.

On the horizon, he could see a small dot that looked like a boat. As the cruiser approached, Bips could see the overloaded ship in bad shape.

“Very poor [shape],” said Bips. “Some say it’s really leaking and they’re bailing.”

Captain Paradise announced to his passengers that, under maritime law, he would render aid and assistance to a ship in trouble.

“At that point, I think he knew he had to get people on board,” Bips said. “I understand they are giving them clothing, medical attention, water, food but they are isolating them in a special area.”

A Carnival spokesman confirmed that the Paradise rescued 24 people in a small boat off southwest Cuba. The crew provided food, water and medical aid.

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

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

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