MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Martha Martinez said her nephew Michael Martinez was always trying to have a better life.

She believes he was on board that boat carrying 20 people from Mariel, Cuba to Florida, but she doesn’t know anything more.

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The vessel capsized and sank off the coast of Key West. She recalls as a little kid, he always had a dream of coming here.

Capt. Adam Chamie is the commander at Coast Guard Station Key West. He tells us 10 men are missing, 8 people were rescued and two died, sources tell us the deceased are both males.

Pictures show some of the survivors in the water, swimming toward flotation devices from the Coast Guard. They were discovered by a cutter on patrol in the Florida straights.

Coast Guard rescues Cuban migrants after boat sinks off Key West On May 27, 2021. (Courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard)

“Our lookout on that cutter spotted what appeared to be people waving their arms and struggling to stay afloat and they responded and got on scene and confirmed, indeed, there were people lost at sea,” said Capt. Chamie.

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As for the missing, searchers are still holding on to hope. “We’re working on over 24 hours of searching, but it is still possible they could be out there on top of the water, treading water, so we’re going to continue to search,” Capt. Chamie said.

This comes as we’re seeing increasing numbers of migrants making the dangerous journey.

Coast Guard rescues Cuban migrants after boat sinks off Key West On May 27, 2021. (Courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard)

So far this fiscal year, there have been 298 Cubans interdicted at sea. That compares to 49 for all of last year, 313 in 2019 and 259 in 2018.

Dr. Jorge Duany is head of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. “There’s been a resurgence of the rafter phenomenon, the “balseros” as they’re called in Spanish,” Dr. Duany said.

He says while numbers are way down since the wet foot dry foot policy ended under President Obama, problems in Cuba are pushing people to leave, even if it means sailing through the dangerous, sometimes deadly Florida straights.

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“Now, unfortunately, it looks like people are desperate and frustrated with the economic conditions, the pandemic, perhaps with the political situation as well,” Dr. Duany said. “It’s a pattern that is concerning it seems to be a growing trend for Cubans to try to reach Florida in whatever way they can.”

Ted Scouten