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Fisherman lost at sea for 438 days prayed to God for forgiveness before rescue

by Aaron James

Salvador Alvarenga, 36 and from El Savador, went on a fishing expedition off the coast of Mexico on November 17 2012 with a 22-year-old Mexican colleague, the late Ezequiel Cordoba.

Their boat was caught by a storm and they soon lost radio contact with their colleagues onshore. It was the last time Mr Alvarenga spoke to anyone on land for 438 days. To survive, he and Mr Cordoba ate raw and sun-dried fish, seabirds and turtles, including their blood, as well as rainwater and their own urine.

Ezequiel Cordoba, the son of an evangelical preacher, died from starvation and dehydration after four months at sea.

Mr Alvarenga initially kept the body for five days, partly for company, and partly because he hoped he could deliver the body back to Mr Cordoba's parents in Mexico.

He eventually lay the body to rest in the ocean after five days.

Mr Alvarenga travelled more than 6000 miles, from the coast of Mexico to the Marshall Islands. On January 30 2015, he saw the islands of Ebon Atoll and swam to shore before being rescued by locals.

Speaking to The Guardian before the release of a new book chronicling his experience called 438 Days, he said: "We would talk about our mothers and how badly we had behaved.

"We asked God to forgive us for being such bad sons. We imagined if we could hug them, give them a kiss.

"We promised to work harder so they would not have to work any more. But it was too late.

"He [Cordoba] asked me to tell his mother that he was sad he could not say goodbye and that she shouldn't make any more tamales for him - they should let him go, that he had gone with God.

"I suffered hunger, thirst and an extreme loneliness, and didn't take my life.

"You only get one chance to live, so appreciate it."

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