BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A 58-year-old Uruguayan man who disappeared four months ago in the remote Andes Mountains was found alive on Sunday, after he spent a brutal winter eating rats and raisins to survive, local media reported.
Raul Fernando Gomez Circunegui in May set out to cross the mountains from Chile to Argentina on foot because his motorcycle broke down. He then reportedly lost his way during a snowstorm.
Argentine officials from the northwestern province of San Juan stumbled upon Gomez in a shelter 2,840 meters (9,318 feet) above sea level when they traveled there to record snow levels.
A feeble Gomez was able to hobble over and open the shelter’s door, alerting the crew to his presence.
“The truth is that this is a miracle. We still can’t believe it,” San Juan Governor Jose Luis Gioja told the local Diario de Cuyo newspaper. “We let him talk to his wife, his mother and his daughter. ... I asked him: ‘Are you a believer?’ He told me, ‘no, but now I am.’”
Sugar, raisins, rats and the shelter’s leftover supplies kept Gomez alive through the Southern Hemisphere’s winter. He lost 20 kilos (44 pounds) during the ordeal and is dehydrated, according to media reports.
Photos of an emaciated, bearded Gomez resting on a bed were splashed on the websites of Argentine newspapers Clarin and La Nacion.
A doctor who examined Gomez was surprised by the man’s resilience, according to Uruguayan newspaper El Pais.
“He’s a patient with high blood pressure, a history of smoking and signs of undernourishment,” the doctor was quoted as saying. But “he’s going to be fine and in a few days we’re going to discharge him.”
In 1972, a plane carrying an Uruguayan rugby team to Chile crashed in the Andes. Some of the survivors sustained themselves by eating dead bodies.
Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Additional reporting by Karina Grazina; Editing by Stacey Joyce