Wed, Aug 23, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Fishermen reach land

MEXICAN HEROES The trio, who drifted at sea for nine months before being rescued by a Taiwanese fishing boat, arrived in the Marshall Islands yesterday

AP , MEXICO CITY

Mexican fishermen Jesus Vidana Lopez, 27, right, Salvador Ordonez, 37, left, and Lucio Rendon, 27, second-left, raise their hands with an unidentified crew member of the Taiwanese fishing boat that rescued them upon arriving in Majuro, the Marshall Islands, yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Three Mexican fishermen who say they spent nine months adrift on the Pacific Ocean finally reached dry land when the Taiwanese fishing boat that rescued them arrived at a remote island chain halfway around the world from their homeland.

The trio landed on Monday in the Marshall Islands aboard the boat that pulled them from the ocean on Aug. 9, and after a medical checkup were found well enough to return to Mexico by airplane.

They are expected to reach their homeland by Friday, Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said.

Television footage showed the fishermen looking thin but clean-shaven, sometimes smiling and appearing surprising healthy.

"I'm well, very well," said Salvador Ordonez, who answered "of course" when asked if he would go back to sea.

"I've always worked on the sea," the 37-year old Ordonez said.

Asked what happened to two boatmates who they said died during the ordeal, he told the Televisa news network that one, whom they knew only as "Juan" didn't want to eat raw food.

"He vomited ... and after a while he vomited blood, over and over again," Ordonez said. Eventually he and another man died, and the three survivors threw their bodies overboard, Ordonez said.

Jesus Vidana, 27, said the two dead men had hired the other three to make the fishing trip, and denied speculation the five may have set out to pick up drugs at sea, an activity not uncommon on Mexico's Pacific coast, which often serves as a transhipment point to the US.

"That's wrong because we set out to catch sharks," Vidana said.

Ordonez seconded that, saying, "we are shark fishermen."

Police met the fishing vessel at the dock, which was cordoned off to journalists, including a large group of Mexican media.

The three survivors said heavy winds carried them out to sea, where they survived by catching and eating raw fish and drinking rain water. To pass the hours, they claim to have read the Bible and prayed for survival.

The men reportedly asked for sweets on reaching land. They were in good health, though two were suffering from arms and legs left badly swollen from excessive exposure to sun and salt.

Officials from the Foreign Relations Department traveled to the Marshall Islands and will help the fisherman return to Mexico.

Vidana said he, Ordonez, Lucio Rendon and the two other men set off from San Blas, about 660km northwest of Mexico City. However, mechanical problems and adverse winds quickly pushed their 8m boat out to sea.

The group had planned on a short fishing expedition and was carrying only flashlights and a compass at the time they disappeared.

The fishermen have become instant folk heroes in Mexico.

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