Castaway set to fly home from Marshall Islands

Mr Jose Salvador Alvarenga of El Salvadore attends a press conference in Majuro on Feb 6, 2014. Mr Alvarenga was set to depart the Marshall Islands on Monday for his homeland of El Salvador after medics cleared him to travel, a source familiar with t
Mr Jose Salvador Alvarenga of El Salvadore attends a press conference in Majuro on Feb 6, 2014. Mr Alvarenga was set to depart the Marshall Islands on Monday for his homeland of El Salvador after medics cleared him to travel, a source familiar with the situation said. -- PHOTO: AFP 

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (AFP) - Castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga was set to depart the Marshall Islands on Monday for his homeland of El Salvador after medics cleared him to travel, a source familiar with the situation said.

The fisherman, who says he survived 13 months adrift on the Pacific Ocean, needed a green light from doctors after suffering from ill-health in the wake of his ordeal, which ended when he washed up on a remote atoll 12 days ago.

Officials have imposed a media blackout around the exhausted survivor since he conducted a flurry of interviews soon after arriving in Majuro, but a source said he was expected to leave on Monday night on a flight bound for Hawaii.

From there, he will travel to El Salvador, most likely via the US West Coast, to be reunited with the family who had long thought he was dead.

The 37-year-old has been in and out of hospital since arriving in Majuro, suffering from dehydration and a range of ailments linked to surviving by eating raw fish and bird flesh and drinking turtle blood and his own urine.

Alvarenga said last week that his crewmate - named as 24-year-old Ezequiel Cordoba - could not stomach the makeshift diet and did not survive the 12,500-kilometre (8,000-mile) trip from Mexico.

The Salvadoran appeared in good health when he first arrived in Majuro but has since complained of back pain, swollen joints and lethargy.

Franklyn House, a retired US doctor who met Alvarenga last week, said he also appeared to be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

He had been due to leave last Friday but El Salvador's foreign ministry said one of its diplomats had met him and "confirmed that the health of Mr Alvarenga is broken" and must improve before his departure.

In an interview with AFP from his hospital last Tuesday, Alvarenga said he had suicidal thoughts during his trip but was sustained by dreams of reuniting with his family and eating tortilla and chicken.

His mother has said she is eager to oblige when he returns home.

"We will make him a big meal, but we won't feed him fish because he must be bored of eating that," she told AFP. "We will make him a big plate of meat, beans and cheese to help him recover."

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