Castaway now in hospital in Marshall Islands capital
A Spanish-speaking man who says he has been adrift at sea for the last 13 months has arrived in the Marshall Islands capital.
A man who says he's been adrift on the Pacific Ocean for thirteen months has told officials he is a shrimp and shark fisherman originally from El Salvador who had been living in Mexico for the past 15 years.
The man, Jose Salvador Albarengo has attracted worldwide interest after washing up in a 24 foot boat on the remote atoll of Ebon on Thursday.
Our correspondent in Marshall Islands, Giff Johnson, says Mr Albarengo gave information about his family in the United States and El Salvador to officials after arriving by sea patrol vessel in the capital, Majuro, on Monday.
Giff Johnson spoke to Sally Round soon after the boat docked.
Giff Johnson: The castaway got off the boat just a little before 2pm Majuro time [Monday] about a 22 hour boat ride from Edon back to the capital Majuro in the government's sea patrol vessel, an Australian provided search and surveillance type vessel. He got off the bock after Marshall Islands immigration and various other officials went in and talked to him and so on. The initial information we have is that actually he is not from Mexico. He has been living in Mexico but currently is from El Salvador.
Sally Round: How did he look when he came off the boat?
GJ: He has not trimmed his beard or his hair so he looks like a guy who has been on a boat by himself for a long time. He didn't look so gaunt, he seemed to be a little puffy and this maybe a circulation issue to do with having been in a boat for a long time. I mean he did walk off the patrol vessel, off a gang plank and straight into an ambulance. That's like a distance of say, maybe 8 metres, but he had people helping him and he was holding onto the ropes on the gangplank, so he's obviously having difficulty walking.
SR: So, a lot of attention on him and I guess there might have been a bit of a crowd there to welcome him. What was his reaction to all that?
GJ: Ah, he waved. We had a lineup of media people, mostly local, but one who flew in today from Australia to cover the arrival. So we had a lineup of people taking pictures and of course there were dozens and dozens of local residents who had heard about it and they turned out. So everyone was hanging on fences and they got their cellphones out, snapping pictures and he waved as he came out. I think he had a Coca-Cola can in his hand and he seemed happy. There were several Spanish-speaking folks at the dock so he could communicate with the immigration and various other people. He has gone to Majuro Hospital where they are going to do a full medical workup on him to see how he is doing and take it from there. There is a standard protocol here of getting people into the hospital, getting them checked out and then they do their best to verify where the person is from. Once they are able to verify that, then they move to the next step of contacting the authorities in the country, alerting them that they have a national of that country and they work on repatriating people.
SR: Were you able to glean from the US representative whether he had indeed been at sea for 13 months, as he says?
GJ: He is confirming the date of December 2012, yes.
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