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Castaway known for drinking turtle blood long before Pacific trip

AP, AFP-JIJI

Pacific castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga’s departure from the Marshall Islands was delayed Thursday for health reasons as the bereaved family of the companion he set sail with sought answers.

The 37-year-old from El Salvador, who claims he was adrift for 13 months in a small fishing boat, had been expected to leave the Pacific outpost Friday but medical staff advised against it, with Alvarenga still suffering dehydration.

In a brief public appearance, Alvarenga, a native of El Salvador who had been living in Mexico, appeared much weaker than he did earlier in the week as he greeted about 50 officials and media Thursday at the Marshall Islands Resort hotel where he is staying. Officials said it would likely be three or four days before he was fit enough to travel home.

Well before his incredible tale of survival in a 13-month Pacific odyssey, Mexican fishermen said Alvarenga consumed the very things he claims saved him: raw fish and turtle blood.

Fellow fishermen in Chocohuital, a village nestled on a lagoon in the southern state of Chiapas, remembered Alvarenga as a good man with a quirky diet that they say gives credence to his amazing story. The burly man they knew as “La Chancha,” the Spanish word for a sow, would gobble up anything, including dog food.

Alvarenga claims he survived more than a year lost in the Pacific after leaving Chocohuital on a fishing expedition aboard a tiny fiberglass boat in late 2012, a 12,500-km journey that ended in the Marshall Islands last Thursday.

But a young man who accompanied him on the shark fishing trip. Alvarenga told reporters that his companion, Ezequiel, 24, starved to death after four months because he could not stomach the raw diet, and that he had to push his body overboard.