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Castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga: 13 months adrift on Pacific, dead body tossed

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Castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga, who survived 13 months adrift on the Pacific by eating raw fish, birds and turtles and by drinking urine, rainwater, and the blood of birds, said that his fishing partner died of starvation after four weeks at sea because 23-year-old Ezequiel Córdova refused to eat raw birds and turtles. Eventually, Jose Salvador Alvarenga tossed his companion’s dead body overboard. "What else could I do?" said 37-year-old Jose Salvador Alvarenga according to a Feb. 6, 2014, CNN report.

The mind-boggling 13-month survival story of castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga, an El Salvadoran who had been working in Mexico as a fisherman, came to an end last Thursday when his 24-foot battered fishing boat washed ashore on a reef on Ebon Atoll. Shocked islanders found the castaway in ragged underwear, sporting a bushy beard, and long hair.

Ebon Atoll is a coral atoll of 22 islands in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia and is considered to be part of the Marshall Islands.

Just a few days after his rescue, Jose Salvador Alvarenga was released from the Majuro Hospital in the Marshall Islands, but on Thursday, he had to return to the hospital to be intravenously fed because he was severely dehydrated and low on vitamins and minerals. “Doctors said Alvarenga's limbs have started to swell, and they can't seem to keep him hydrated.”

During Alvarenga’s brief public appearance on Thursday, he looked visibly weaker than his first media appearance on Monday.

On Monday, the castaway said that as his companion was starving to death before his eyes, he also considered suicide. "I was going to commit suicide. I wanted to kill myself, but no. I asked God that he was going to save me."

The two fishermen, 37-year-old Jose Salvador Alvarenga and 23-year-old Ezequiel Córdova, set off on a planned one-day fishing trip to catch sharks from the port of Paredon Viejo, Mexico, near the southern coastal city of Tonala in December of 2012.

After the fishermen’s 24-foot fishing boat was blown off course by winds and they got caught in a storm, they lost use of their engines and were adrift on the Pacific Ocean.

When Jose Salvador Alvarenga and Ezequiel Córdova did not return from their one-day fishing trip, their fishermen colleagues in the Mexican state of Chiapas went looking for them but when there was no sign of the two, everyone thought they were dead. "It’s a great surprise," fisherman Belarmino Rodriguez Solis told the El Universal newspaper. "Nobody survives more than two or three months in those conditions. We even laid flowers in the palm hut where he lived. When fishermen leave and do not return we look for them."

Another fisherman, Williams Decuir Uscanga, said: "We’re surprised, we couldn't believe it, now that we saw him on the news we’re totally sure it is him."

Jose Salvador Alvarenga, who is known by his fishermen colleagues to have always had an unusual diet, lived on anything that he could catch with his hands while being adrift. "He wasn't picky. He ate everything," said one colleague.

Ezequiel Córdova, however, was unable to eat the raw birds and turtles and died after four weeks. Even though Ezequiel Córdova’s family understands that his death was an accident, the family is anxious to speak to the surviving castaway. "The only thing we want is to know what was the last thing that he told this man and what he did with my brother's body," said Ezequiel’s brother. "We want him to come here, for the government to bring him here.”

For now, castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga has to remain in the Majuro Hospital in the Marshall Islands until his health improves. “Doctors at Majuro Hospital in the Marshall Islands' capital said Mr Alvarenga was too dehydrated to travel.”

Since his rescue, the incredible 13-month survival story of castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga has been under scrutiny, but both Marshall Islands officials and Mexican officials have found no reason to doubt the 6,600-mile (10,800 kilometers) journey across the Pacific Ocean. "We've had contact with his family in El Salvador, and they have corroborated his story," said one Mexican official. Phillip Muller, the Marshall Islands' foreign affairs minister, stated that “the investigations into Mr. Alvarenga's story so far have been substantiated.”

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