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Shipwrecked mother saves children by breastfeeding them but dies of dehydration

A shipwrecked woman in Venezuela saved the lives of her children by breastfeeding them for four days before succumbing to dehydration.

Eight people, including Mariely Chacon and her family, were on board the boat Thor on a recreational trip from Higuerote to La Tortuga island in Venezuela’s Miranda state on 3 September, Newsweek reported. Another boat was also travelling on that route with them.

Four people, including Ms Chacon’s husband, have not yet been found, according to El Diario.

Minutes after they left for the uninhabited island of La Tortuga, an electrical fault was reported in one of the boats. While the boat set out again after repairing the fault, it is believed to have been hit by a large wave, which split the vessel in two and left its passengers floating 70 miles out at sea.

In a desperate bid to keep her six-year-old son and two-year-old daughter alive, Ms Chacon breastfed her children. To keep herself alive, she drank her own urine, according to officials. But Ms Chacon ultimately died due to severe heat stroke and dehydration.

Four days after the shipwreck, the children were found clinging to their dead mother’s body in a small lifeboat. Authorities took them to a hospital in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, where they are being treated for first-degree burns, dehydration and post-traumatic stress.

Ms Chacon suffered organ failure due to electrolyte depletion triggered by dehydration as she resorted to breastfeeding, La Republica reported, citing a forensic medicine source.

Veronica Martinez, the children’s 25-year-old nanny, also survived the shipwreck. She was found in an empty icebox. She has now been hospitalised after suffering from a high level of dehydration, lethargy and post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to El Diario, the woman had a rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, fever, delirium and dry wrinkled skin from sunburn. She had to be sedated, the report added.

Authorities are yet to find the children’s father Remis Clambor and three others who were on the boat — Vianney Dos Santos, José Marcano, Alejandro Osorio.

Ms Chacon’s family members said the boat trip was a simple family outing to entertain the children, according to La Republica.

Ms Chacon’s funeral was held on 11 September in Venezuela and broadcast on YouTube, where several people paid tribute to the woman for her sacrifice.

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