El Salvador castaway vows will not return to sea

SAN SALVADOR Tue Feb 18, 2014 9:52pm EST

1 of 2. Castaway fisherman Jose Salvador Alvarenga sits surrounded by family members during a news conference in San Salvador February 18, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Orellana

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SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - A fisherman from El Salvador who says he spent 13 months adrift in the Pacific Ocean, surviving on turtle blood and fish and birds caught with his bare hands, vowed he would not venture back out to sea as he left hospital on Tuesday.

Jorge Salvador Alvarenga, 37, was found in January on a remote coral atoll in the Marshall Islands, saying he had survived at sea for more than a year.

"No. For the moment no," Alvarenga said, telling reporters he will not return to the sea as he left the hospital with family members, stopping to raise his hand in a victory sign.

He later told a news conference he spoke to God every day, and never lost faith that he would survive. Another fisherman who had set out with Alvarenga died weeks into the ordeal.

Asked if he had eaten his companion, he said: "No. He died."

"He died ... of hunger and thirst. He didn't eat," he added.

Alvarenga was barely able to speak when he arrived back in El Salvador a week ago and he still struggled to answer questions from journalists on Tuesday.

El Salvador's health minister, Maria Isabel Rodriguez, escorted the fisherman from the hospital and said he would not need surgery for a spinal injury. She said Alvarenga was so shaken by the ordeal that he may not return to his coastal home.

"I don't know if it was decided that he'll be taken to another house, because of the problem he had of fear of the sea," Rodriguez said.

Alvarenga, a fisherman for 15 years, told officials he set sail on a shark-fishing trip from Mexico in late December 2012, but was blown out to sea. He washed up some 10,000 km (6,200 miles) away in the Marshall Islands.

He was found in a disoriented state on a remote coral atoll in his 7.3-meter (22-foot) fiberglass boat.

(Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Michael O'Boyle, Simon Gardner, Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)

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