The U.S. Coast Guard rescued three people on Tuesday from an uninhabited island in the Bahamas where they had been stranded for 33 days, surviving on conchs and rats, the authorities said.
The stranded people — two men and a woman identified as Cuban nationals — were spotted waving a makeshift flag during a routine surveillance patrol of the area on Monday, the Coast Guard said in a statement.
The surveillance crew dropped food, water and a radio to the island. And on Tuesday, the three people were hoisted into a rescue helicopter and taken to Lower Keys Medical Center, a hospital in Key West, the Coast Guard said. They had no reported injuries.
Lt. Mike Allert, the pilot of the rescue helicopter, said that the rescue was delayed until Tuesday because of bad weather, ABC News reported.
Lieutenant Allert told the Miami news station WPLG that the people had survived by eating conchs and rats.
“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,” he said.
The people had been stranded on Anguilla Cay, a small, uninhabited group of islands between Cuba and the lower Florida Keys.
The three people told the rescue crew that they swam to the island five weeks ago after their boat capsized in rough waters, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. It is unclear where their boat was headed.
“Thanks to our aircrews diligently conducting routine patrols, we were able to spot people in distress and intervene,” Sean Connett, a command duty officer at Coast Guard Seventh District, said in the statement. “This was a very complex operation involving asset and crews from different units, but thanks to good communication and coordination between command centers and pilots, we were able to safely get everyone to a medical facility before the situation could worsen.”
After the three people were evaluated at the hospital, they were handed over to the U.S. Border Patrol, the Coast Guard said, and later transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.