In this Jan. 2019, photo provided by Luisa Garcia, mother of Yubreilys Merchán, shows Merchan in Güiria, Venezuela. Merchán, a 23-year-old hairdresser, survived when the wooden boat carrying her and other Venezuelans, mostly women, sank on its way to Trinidad early Wednesday, April 24, near the Venezuelan island of Patos, 5 miles from a peninsula in the Venezuelan state of Sucre. (Carmen Garcia via AP)

Cries of panic as boat with Venezuelan migrants sank

April 27, 2019 - 1:09 pm

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — As a small boat packed with Venezuelans capsized in Caribbean coastal waters this week, Yubreilys Merchán found herself with seconds to react.

In a desperate bid to survive, the 23-year-old stripped off her clothes to lighten her weight before plunging into the water. Then, she began swimming toward a nearby island, a skill she learned from her mother as a child.

Upon reaching a rocky coast, she and another companion collapsed in an embrace, crying with relief after realizing they were safe.

"That was a miracle, an incredible thing, like something out of a movie," Merchán's mother, Luisa García, told The Associated Press on Friday.

The traumatic experience of both survivors highlights the increasingly perilous risks that Venezuelans are taking to leave the country after years of dire economic conditions.

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