Missing French walkers found after seven weeks

NO WORRIES: The wife of Loic Pillois, one of the two walkers, said she was never concerned as Pillois knew they could always eat certain bugs if they ever got lost

AFP , CAYENNE

Sat, Apr 07, 2007 - Page 6

Two walkers missing since mid-February in the jungle of French Guiana turned up on Thursday after having spent seven weeks living off river water, seeds -- and the meat of two turtles.

Frenchmen Loic Pillois, 34, turned up at the small town of Saul, central Guiana, at 10am.

He tipped off the authorities that his friend Guilhem Nayral, 34, was about six hours walk away to the south and the emergency services found him and airlifted him to safety four hours later.

"We found him stretched out on the ground, completely exhausted, very thin, dehydrated, but not injured," said Martin Andre, deputy commander of the local police.

"When I took him in my arms, he burst into tears," he added.

Nayral is being treated at Cayenne hospital, where a spokesman said he was being treated for extreme fatigue.

Pillois, who arrived a little earlier, was interviewed by local police before also being admitted for treatment. Although he seemed weak, he was strong enough to get out of the helicopter without help.

The only thing he said was: "It's really hot."

Local officials opened an investigation in the middle of last month over their disappearance and about 40 police officers searched the jungle for three weeks last month.

The search was scaled down to just eight men toward the end of last month.

The two walkers had headed off in the middle of February for the Grand Kanori rapids, on the banks of the river Approuague, in the heart of Guiana.

They had only intended to stay there 10 days, but had become lost despite their maps and compasses.

Pillois told the police that they survived the seven weeks drinking river water, eating seeds and the flesh of two turtles that they had managed to kill.

Pillois' wife said from Toulouse, in southwest France, that she was never really worried about the pair.

"Five years ago, they had already walked around Saul, with a friend who was an expert in insects," she said.

"He told them that if they got lost in the jungle, they could always eat certain bugs," she said.