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Man lost at sea for 24 days survives on a bottle of ketchup, stock cubes

A 47-year-old man was rescued this week by the Colombian navy after 24 days adrift at sea. How did he survive the ordeal? By eating ketchup, garlic powder and bouillon cubes, he said.

Elvis Francois, 47, from the island nation of Dominica, was rescued 120 nautical miles northwest of Puerto Bolívar, Colombia after adverse weather conditions sent him adrift, the navy wrote in a statement Thursday.

He had been making repairs on his boat when he was pulled out to sea. With minimal navigational knowledge, Francois found himself unable to manoeuvre back to shore.

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“I had no food. There was only a bottle of ketchup that was on the boat, garlic powder and Maggi (stock cubes). So I mixed it up with some water for me to survive 24 days in the sea,” Francois said in a video posted by the Colombian navy.

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Francois carved the word “help” on the hull of his boat but wasn’t spotted by passing ships for weeks. He said he had to bail out water to keep from sinking and even lit a fire on his vessel to try and get the attention of a nearby ship.

“The final days, about Jan. 15, I saw a plane. I had a mirror. I was making some signals,” Francois said, detailing how he tried to angle his mirror to catch sunlight to alert the passing plane.

“They passed over the boat twice so I realized they saw me,” he added. “I am grateful for being alive today because of them.”

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Francois was rescued with the help of the merchant ship Voltaire and was brought to Cartagena to receive medical attention.

Image of the merchant ship Voltaire, which assisted in the rescue of Elvis Francois, 47, off the northwest coast of Colombia.

Armada de Colombia

“Twenty-four days – no land, nobody to talk to. Don’t know what to do, don’t know where you are. It was rough,” he said. “At a certain time, I lose hope. I think about my family.”

Colombian officials said Francois was handed over to immigration authorities to assist in his return home.


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