Updated: 02/06/2014 15:43 | By Agence France-Presse

Pacific castaway's homecoming delayed

Pacific castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga's departure from the Marshall Islands was delayed on Thursday for health reasons as the family of the now-dead companion with whom he set sail sought answers.

Pacific castaway's homecoming delayed

The claimed boat of Pacific castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga of El Salvador shortly after his January 30 arrival on the remote Ebon Atoll in the Marshall Islands, February 6, 2014

The 37-year-old from El Salvador, who claims he was adrift for 13 months in a small fishing boat, had been expected to leave the Pacific outpost on Friday but medical staff advised against it, with Alvarenga still suffering dehydration.

Christian Clay Mendoza, the deputy chief of mission at the Mexican embassy in Manila who is acting on his behalf, said in Majuro that he needed more time to recover.

"We must consider his health, that he is fit to travel and get the doctor's recommendation. We're hoping in the next three or four days," he said.

"The doctors say he's too dehydrated and it is not a good idea to travel right now."

Alvarenga has been treated at Majuro Hospital since his arrival from Ebon Atoll, where he washed ashore a week ago clad only in ragged underpants. 

He arrived at a press conference Thursday clutching onto men on both sides and was helped up a flight of stairs and along a walkway to the venue.

"I want to thank the government of the Marshall Islands for all it has done and the friends who have helped me while here," he said in brief comments before being whisked away for more medical tests without taking questions.

Mendoza said the stockily-built Alvarenga was "not willing to talk too much right now".

"He's been through a lot and is still recovering but in good health," said the diplomat, who was jetted in from the Philippines when early reports said the castaway from Mexico.

It was later established that he was from El Salvador but had lived for years in Mexico and set sail from there on a fishing trip in late 2012.

He then said he became lost and drifted some 12,500 kilometres (8,000 miles) to the Marshalls in a small boat.

He said he survived by eating raw fish and birds as well as drinking turtle blood, urine and rainwater.

Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Phillip Muller said an investigation was continuing to verify his account but "we have been told by the Mexican government that so far the story as told has been substantiated".

Experts say it is theoretically possible to survive such a journey.

Alvarenga set sail with a young companion he described as a teenager named Xiguel, who starved to death four months into the ordeal because he would vomit raw fish and birds and was thrown overboard.

The victim's family told AFP from their humble home in the southern state of Chiapas that his name was Ezequiel and he was 24. They could not believe that he refused to eat.

"We want him (Alvarenga) to come here, for the government to bring him here," said Ezequiel's brother, Romeo Cordoba Rios, adding that his mother had made the request to the Mexican foreign ministry.

The family, however, does not want a criminal investigation against Alvarenga. "It was a work accident," the brother said.

"The only thing we want is to know what was the last thing that he told this man and what he did with my brother's body," he said, adding that his mother was "still crying for her son".

The family said Ezequiel did not really know Alvarenga and decided at the last minute to join him on the fishing trip.

Fellow fishermen in Chocohuital, a village nestled on a lagoon in the southern state of Chiapas, remembered Alvarenga as a good man with a quirky diet that they said gives credence to his amazing story.

"He wasn't picky. He ate everything," his boss Bellardino Rodriguez told AFP of fare including raw fish, turtle blood and even dog food.

"We think that saved him."

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