Mexican fishermen adrift for 11 months in Pacific Ocean

By Andrew Buncombe

Fishermen love to tell tales - some that push the bounds of credibility.

But the story told to their rescuers by three Mexican fishermen discovered drifting in the Pacific Ocean was remarkable even by those standards.

Having encountered engine problems soon after they left their home port it seems the men were steadily pushed westwards across the ocean and spent 11 months lost in its vastness.

They apparently survived on a diet of rainwater, raw fish and seabirds.

"We fished, and we ate the fish raw... because there was no fire to cook with," survivor Jesus Vidana, 27, told Mexico's Televisa news network.

Speaking via a link-up with the communications system of the tuna fishing trawler which found them, he added: "We never lost hope because there is a god up there.

"Our feet are swollen, our arms are swollen, but we're not in that bad shape."

The fisherman apparently left San Blas, a fishing town on Mexico's Pacific coast 650km from Mexico City, on October 9 last year.

When they were found they were close to the Marshall Islands, around 8,850km to the west.

Eugene Muller, spokesman for Koo's Fishing Co, which owns the Taiwanese-crewed fishing vessel that found the men on August 9, said the men were now being returned to Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands.

He said it would likely to take 10-14 days to transport them.

Speaking from the Marshall Islands, Mr Muller spoke to the Associated Press:

"Their two motors had been dismantled, and it seemed they were trying to swap parts to get one working. [Our fishing vessel's captain said] they were very skinny and they were very hungry.

"The first thing we did, we gave them something to eat and they chowed down," said Mr Muller.

Reports said that two other members of the crew had jumped overboard and presumably perished soon after they encountered engine problems.

There has been no news of them.

The survivors said they had read the bible as their 27-ft fibreglass boat had continued to drift westwards.

On at least one occasion they had to endure more two weeks without food but there was sufficient water to drink because "it rained every day".

The three men read the Bible as they drifted across the Pacific.

"Sometimes our stomachs would hurt, because we would go up to 15 days without eating," said Mr Vidana.

"There were times when we had only one bird to share among the three of us."

Another of the survivors, Salvador Ordonez, said the ship was equipped with flashlights and a compass but no radio.

But he added: "I knew I was going to live, that I wasn't going to die."

The third fisherman, Lucio Rendon, said: "We didn't see any ships for months.[Now] we're recovering, sleeping a lot, and eating well."

There was no immediate way to confirm the men's story and obtaining further details has been hampered by language difficulties between the Mexicans and the crew of the tuna vessel.

But reports said that some relatives of the men in San Blas and the nearby villages had already started saying prayers designed to help the dead find their way to heaven.

One relative, Saul Ordonez, a cousin of two of the men from the hamlet of El Limon, told the Los Angeles Times: "I'm trembling all over and I think I'm going to have a heart attack.

"They went fishing and they never came back. We thought they were dead."

He said he and other fishermen had searched the Pacific coastline in vain.

"We were looking for some trace of them, anything, but we found nothing."

Mr Muller said officials from the Marshall Islands government officials had contacted the Mexican Embassy in New Zealand, which handles relations between the islands and Mexico, to arrange for the return of the fishermen.

- INDEPENDENT

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