El Salvador castaway Alvarenga finally arrives home

Jose Salvador Alvarenga was surrounded by reporters when he arrived at the airport

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A castaway from El Salvador - who says he spent more than a year adrift in the Pacific - has finally arrived home.

Jose Salvador Alvarenga, 37, was met by family members and officials after flying from the US.

He was found washed up two weeks ago in the Marshall Islands. He says he left Mexico for a trip in a boat in December 2012 with a friend who died on board.

He apparently survived the 8,000km (5,000-mile) ordeal by catching fish, birds and turtles with his bare hands.

For fluids, he claimed to have drunk urine, rainwater and the blood of birds.


Mr Alvarenga was rescued on 30 January by people living on the island of Ebon Atoll.

He was found dehydrated and suffering from back pain and swollen joints.

The BBC's Lorena Arroyo is in Jose Alvarenga's hometown of Garito Palmero waiting for him to arrive

Mr Alvarenga landed at El Salvador's international airport, near the capital San Salvador, at about 20:00 local time on Tuesday (02:00 GMT Wednesday) after flying from Los Angeles.

"We are happy he is coming back after so much time," his cousin Marisol Alvarenga was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

"He could have died. But thanks to God my cousin is a warrior, because I don't know what would have happened to another person," she added.

Man playing the guitar in Garita Palmeira Local residents played music to shorten the wait for Mr Alvarenga
Jose Salvador Alvarenga's aunt on 11 February 2014 Mr Alvarenga's aunt says she is worried about her nephew's health

At the scene

Residents of Garita Palmera prepared for Jose Salvador Alvarenga's homecoming by reciting prayers, playing electric guitars and preparing pupusas, a typical regional dish.

His parents have already been reunited with their son at a hospital in San Salvador where he could stay up to 48 hours before travelling on to his home village.

Other relatives and neighbours were glued to the TV in his humble family home to watch as his arrival was broadcast live from the airport.

A handwritten "Welcome home" sign and a throng of waiting journalists make it easy to spot the Alvarenga family home on its dusty street.

Mr Alvarenga's story is big news in El Salvador. Local journalists say they welcome it as a rare piece of positive news to come out of their country, which more often hits the headlines for gang warfare and its high murder rate.

At the airport's VIP lounge, Mr Alvarenga was met by El Salvador's foreign minister and other government officials.

Dozens of journalists also gathered at the airport.

On his way from the Marshall Islands Mr Alvarenga had long stopovers in Hawaii and Los Angeles, where doctors had checked his health and ability to continue the trip.

Mr Alvarenga will now undergo further checks before a decision is taken whether he should stay overnight in a local hospital or can return to his coast fishing village of Garita Palmeira.

The family of his younger friend say they want to speak to Mr Alvarenga to find out more about how their son died, and what happened to his body.

Known as Ezequiel, he is believed to have starved after being unable to eat raw birds and fish.

Jose Salvador Alvarenga After his trip, Mr Alvarenga was sporting a long beard and long, dishevelled hair
Mr Alvarenga's boat , washed up on Ebon Atoll in the Marshall Islands Mr Alvarenga's boat washed up on Ebon Atoll in the Marshall Islands

Three Mexican fishermen were rescued off the Marshall Islands in August 2006 after what they said was about nine months drifting across the Pacific Ocean.

They survived on rain water, seabirds and fish.

Castaways from Kiribati, to the south, frequently find land in the Marshall Islands after ordeals of weeks or months at sea in small boats.

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