August 16, 2006

Mexico fishermen survive months at sea

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Three Mexican shark fishermen
survived nine months at sea in a small boat by eating raw birds
and fish and drinking rain water as they drifted thousands of
miles (kilometers) across the Pacific Ocean.

The fishermen said they left their home town of San Blas on
Mexico's Pacific coast last November and were blown 5,000 miles

off course after their 25-foot (8-meter) fiberglass boat
ran out of gas and they were left to the mercy of the winds and
the tides.

Their families had given them up for dead, but they found a
way to survive.

"We ate raw fish, ducks, sea gulls. We took down any bird
that landed on our boat and we ate it like that, raw," said
Jesus Vidana, one of the three survivors, in an interview with
a Mexican radio station from the ship that rescued them.

The odyssey finally ended when Vidana and the other two
men, identified as Salvador Ordonez and Lucio Rendon, were
rescued last week by a Taiwanese tuna fishing trawler in waters
between the Marshall Islands and Kiribati.

"They were very skinny and very hungry," Eugene Muller, the
manager of the fishing company that found them, said on

The three men were sunburned but were otherwise in good
shape. Vidana said he and his crew mates always believed they
would be found.

"We never lost hope because we were always seeing boats.
They passed us by, but we kept on seeing them. Every week or
so, sometimes we'd go a month without seeing one, but we always
saw them so we never lost hope."

It was not clear why none of the boats stopped for the
Mexicans earlier on, and they were lucky to be picked up in the
end because they were fast asleep and only noticed the rescue
boat was coming for them when they heard its engine.

Details of the extraordinary journey were sketchy, in part
because of language difficulties between the Mexican fishermen
and the Taiwanese trawler crew.

The first reports were that they had been lost for three
months, and Muller said he thought they were drifting for 11

Vidana and relatives in San Blas said they set out on their
dramatic fishing trip last November.

Muller said he understood that there were five men aboard
the boat when it set out from San Blas, and that two of them
jumped overboard a few days into their ordeal. But Vidana made
no mention of any missing fishermen.

In San Blas, relatives and friends of the fishermen had
given up hope and were astonished to hear of their survival.

"I lived so sad. ... Now that I know my grandson is alive,
I just want him to come home," Francisca Perez, the grandmother
of Lucio Rendon, told the Televisa news station. "

"There are no words to express it. The emotion here is very
strong because we thought they were dead," said Efrain Partida,
a fellow fisherman from the small village.

Mexico's government is sending an official to meet the
survivors in the Marshall Islands when the trawler that picked
them up returns to port in a couple of weeks. The government
will then help them return home.