HAVANA, Cuba -- Five people died and another 12 were unaccounted for after an improvised boat they were using to reach the United States from Cuba sank, official Cuban media reported Friday.
A serious economic crisis is fuelling an unprecedented exodus from Cuba, particularly to the United States.
"Five deaths have been reported," the Cubadebate newspaper reported on its website, adding that survivors said "the incident occurred due to strong waves."
It said two coastguard boats headed to the scene in response to a call for help, rescuing 11.
Witnesses said 12 people from the boat were missing, the report said.
The migrants, all from the municipality of Cardenas, 115 kilometers (70 miles) east of the capital Havana, "left the country illegally on January 23 through Torrontela" trying to reach US territory, it said.
The boat sank the next day.
Many Cubans have taken advantage of a visa exemption in Nicaragua, an ally of Havana, since the end of 2021 to try to reach the United States through Central America.
Emigration by sea, through the Florida Straits, has also skyrocketed in recent months.
The United States Coast Guard has intercepted 5,321 Cubans at sea since October 1, compared with 6,182 in the whole year to September 2022.