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Salvadoran sea survivor returns to hometown

Wednesday - 2/19/2014, 3:40pm  ET

Jose Salvador Alvarenga, a fisherman who says he drifted at sea for more than a year surviving on raw fish, turtles and bird blood, looks on during a news conference in San Salvador, El Salvador, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Alvarenga, 37, underwent a battery of tests after returning home from the Marshall Islands, where he showed up after what he has described as 6,500-mile (10,500-kilometer) journey from Mexico that began when his small fishing boat was thrown off course by bad weather. Alvarenga said he wouldn't be returning to his hometown of Garita Palmera, but he did not say where he was headed. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

MARCOS ALEMAN
Associated Press

GARITA PALMERA, El Salvador (AP) -- The Salvadoran fisherman who says he spent 13 months adrift at sea surviving on raw turtles, fish and birds returned Wednesday to his coastal hometown, where he was warmly welcomed by friends and family.

"I feel very happy to be back," Jose Salvador Alvarenga said Wednesday. "I'm home." Dozens of residents shook his hand.

The 37-year-old sailor left the hospital Tuesday after days of treatment for the physical and psychological effects of his voyage.

His 14-year-old daughter, Fatima Mabea, who hadn't seen Alvarenga since she was a baby, hugged him and told him, "I love you. I'm not going to let you go again."

His wife, Arely Barrera, who hadn't seen him for 10 years after he moved to Mexico, also greeted him and kissed him on the cheek.

Alvarenga's story stunned the world when he washed up on a Pacific atoll several weeks ago, seemingly robust and barely sunburned. But he turned out to be swollen, dehydrated and in pain from the ordeal.

He has said he came close to giving up hope of being rescued after several large ships came near his small fishing boat but none tried to rescue him, even though sailors on at least one even waved at him.

Doctors have been amazed by his physical condition after traveling 6,500 miles (10,000 kilometers) in a small fishing boat from Mexico to the Marshall Islands. He was believed lost in a storm while fishing off the coast of Mexico.

On Tuesday, doctors said he seemed mentally well, though he is now afraid of the sea.


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