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Castaway checked by doctors

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AFP

Castaway Jose Salvador Albarengo walks with the help of a Majuro Hospital nurse in Majuro after a 22-hour boat ride from isolated Ebon Atoll on February 3, 2014. Picture: Hilary Hosia

Majuro, Marshall Islands - A fisherman thought to be from El Salvador who washed ashore on the Marshall Islands said he survived more than a year adrift in the Pacific Ocean, drinking turtle blood and catching fish and birds with his bare hands.

Jose Salvador Albarengo, 37, told officials he set sail on a shark fishing trip from Mexico in late December 2012 - 10 000km away - but was blown out to sea.

He was found in a disoriented state on a remote coral atoll where he had been washed up over the weekend in his 7.3m fibreglass boat. A police patrol boat took him to Majuro, the capital of the islands.

“It was supposed to be a one-day fishing expedition, but they were blown off course by the northern winds,” Thomas Armbruster, the US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, told the media.

A male nurse helped him down the gangplank before he was whisked away to hospital for medical checks.

“He got off the boat with a very bushy beard,” Jack Niedenthal, a filmmaker based on Majuro, told Reuters by telephone.

“He's having trouble walking, his legs are very skinny. I'm not ready to call this a hoax; I think this guy has done some serious time at sea,” Niedenthal said after speaking briefly to Albarengo through an interpreter.

According to the authorities, Albarengo, who has been a fisherman for 15 years, said he set sail with another fisherman, aged between 15 and 18, but the teenager died a month into their ordeal.

They also said they were still gathering information and planned to contact his family in El Salvador and the United States.

In a statement, El Salvador's Foreign Ministry said it was working with Mexican authorities to return him to Mexico, and then on to El Salvador. But the ministry did not confirm Albarengo's identity or give any other details.

The Marshall Islands has a population of 68 000 people spread over 24 coral atolls.

In 2006, three Mexican fishermen picked up by a Taiwanese tuna trawler near the islands said they had spent nearly nine months at sea after drifting across the Pacific in a flimsy fishing boat.

Reuters


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