A man from the Caribbean island of Dominica says he survived 24 days at sea in a sailboat by eating ketchup before being rescued in Colombian waters, the country’s naval authority said.
“I had no food. There was only a bottle of ketchup on the boat, garlic powder and (stock cubes) Maggi. So I mixed it with some water so that I could survive in the sea for 24 days,” Elvis Francois, 47, said in English in a video released by the Colombian Navy.
The islander had the word “help” carved into the boat’s hull when he was found 120 nautical miles northwest of Puerto Bolivar in the northern department of La Guajira.
Mr Francois said he saw other boats pass by and tried to flag them down, even starting a fire on his ship, but they did not see him.
He beat water so as not to sink.
“The last few days, around January 15, I saw a plane. I had a mirror. I made some signals,” he said, describing how he tilted the glass to catch the sun’s glare and draw attention .
“They passed the boat twice, so I realized they saw me,” he continued. “I’m thankful that I’m alive today because of them.”
The aircrew informed the Navy, who then rescued Francois using a merchant ship.
Francois added: “24 days, no country. No one to talk to. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where you are. It was tough. For a certain time I lose hope. I think about my family .”
Video released by the Navy shows a doctor examining Elvis Francois, who appears to be in good health.
“It was very hard. I don’t know how I live today, but I’m alive. And I’m thankful for that,” said François.
He was repairing a sailboat near a harbor on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles in December last year when the weather turned bad and he was swept out to sea, the navy said.
“With no knowledge of navigation, he was lost and disoriented at sea. His efforts to maneuver the vessel and its equipment on board were to no avail,” the statement said.
Mr. François tried to call with his mobile phone, but his signal was lost.
He was handed over to the immigration authorities to coordinate his return to his country.
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