Latin America & Caribbean

Uruguayan man survives freezing four-month Andes ordeal

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Media captionMr Gomez Circunegui was found by Argentine officials and taken to hospital in San Juan

A Uruguayan man who went missing in May while trying to cross the Andes mountains from Chile to Argentina has been found alive, officials say.

Raul Fernando Gomez Circunegui, 58, got lost in snowstorms after his motorbike broke down.

He was found in a mountain shelter at an altitude of more than 2,800m (9,300ft) by Argentine officials.

Mr Gomez survived by eating leftover supplies in the shelter and whatever else he could catch, including rats.

He has been taken to hospital in an emaciated and dehydrated state, but is expected to make a full recovery.

Argentine officials from the north-western province of San Juan stumbled across Mr Gomez after arriving in the area near the shelter by helicopter to record snow levels.

Image caption Weather conditions in the Andes can be some of the harshest in the world

An enfeebled Mr Gomez was able to open the shelter's door and alert 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.'"

He is reported to have lost 20kg (44lb) during the ordeal and is dehydrated, according to media reports.

A doctor who examined him was surprised by his 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."

Members of a Uruguayan rugby team famously survived sub-zero Andean temperatures for 72 days in 1972 by eating the bodies of other plane crash victims.

They were travelling from Montevideo to Santiago to play against against a local team when their plane crashed.

Sixteen of the 45 passengers survived.

They were located after two passengers took a chance and left on a 10-day trek. They were spotted by a farmer who alerted the emergency services.

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