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Two cruise ships stranded at sea due to coronavirus outbreak hoping to dock in Florida

More than 300 U.S. citizens are stranded aboard two cruise ships that are pleading to dock. Seattle-based Holland America hopes to dock the ships in Florida.
The Zaandam cruise ship, carrying dozens of guests with flu-like symptoms, arrives to the bay of Panama City, seen from Isla de Taboga, Panama, Friday, March 27, 2020, amid the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus. (AP/Arnulfo Franco)

MIAMI (AP/KING5) — Two ships carrying passengers and crew from an ill-fated South American cruise are pleading with Florida officials to let them carry off the sick and dead.

Seattle-based Holland American's plans to dock the Zaandam and Rotterdam at Port Everglades in Broward County have been rebuked by local officials, and Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida's health care resources are already stretched too thin to take the passengers.

Holland America said the Rotterdam took on nearly 1,400 people who appear to be healthy, leaving 450 guests and 602 crew members on the Zaandam, including more than 190 who are sick. More than 300 U.S. citizens are on both ships combined.

The Zaandam began its two-week trip on March 7, and Holland America says it sought approval to disembark guests for flights mid-trip. However, Chile closed its borders March 16 while the ship was awaiting approval to disembark at Puntas Arenas in southern Chile.

Guests began coming down with flu-like symptoms on March 22, one day after the Zaandam was expected to end its trip.

In a blog post, Holland America's President Orlando Ashford said that while nations are "justifiably focused" on the coronavirus pandemic "unfolding before them," they have "turned their backs on thousands of people left floating at sea.

Ashford writes that the company is "dealing with a 'not my problem' syndrome."

According to Ashford, four cruise ship guests have died and he says he fears "other lives are at risk."

Seth Wayne, brand ambassador for Holland America, says it has "been really rough not being able to talk or see anybody for 10 days." But, "we feel safe," he added.

Wayne was on the Zaandam, but he got moved to the Rotterdam. He says they are currently south of Grand Cayman.

He says if they were able to dock in Florida, he estimates that they will be there on Thursday.