August 17, 2006

Two starved to death in epic Mexico sea voyage

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Three Mexicans who survived for
nine months as their small fishing boat drifted across the
Pacific Ocean tossed two other men overboard after they died of
starvation during the journey, officials said on Thursday.

The three were rescued last week by a trawler more than
5,000 miles from Mexico's Pacific Coast fishing village of San
Blas, where they left for what was supposed to be a routine
shark fishing trip last November.

Stranded on the high seas for nine months, they stayed
alive by eating raw birds and fish and drinking rain water, but
the government said on Thursday that two other men perished
during the ordeal and were thrown overboard.

"At the start of this fishing trip, there were five people
on board the boat. Two of them would have died shortly
afterward," Miguel Gutierrez, a senior official at Mexico's
foreign ministry, told reporters.

"They refused to eat, and that's why they died," he said,
and rejected suggestions that the survivors may have eaten the
bodies of their dead companions.

The story has captivated Mexico but the survivors did not
mention their dead companions when they were interviewed on
Wednesday by radio and television stations from the boat that
rescued them near the Marshall Islands.

Gutierrez said a survivor told a government official that
one man died in January and the other in early February.

"It is natural that people who have spent nine months on
the high seas, in the conditions they survived, would not have
their complete story straight away," said Foreign Minister Luis
Ernesto Derbez.

A local government official in San Blas said on Thursday
that no one there knew two other men were on board the very
basic 25-foot (8-meter) fiberglass boat.

The survivors' families had given them up for dead, and
were astonished to learn from news reports that they survived.

"Now you see that miracles exist," said Marina Estrada, the
aunt of one of the fishermen.

The three men were skinny and sunburned after their ordeal
but are otherwise in good health.

The Taiwanese fishing trawler that found them is expected
to return to port in the Marshall Islands next Monday. The
survivors will then be given medical checks and flown home.