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.