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Castaway saga shifts to El Salvador

Jose Salvador Alvarenga was headed back to El Salvador.

Jose Salvador Alvarenga was headed back to El Salvador.

MAJURO, Marshall Islands — A Salvadoran man who says he drifted in an open boat across the Pacific for more than a year thanked people in the Marshall Islands for taking care of him and said he was ‘‘doing very well’’ before starting his journey home Monday.

Christopher Loeak, president of the Marshall Islands, bid Jose Salvador Alvarenga farewell at the airport.

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‘‘Thank you for the support, the support by your people,” Alvarenga told him in Spanish in a soft voice.

Alvarenga, clean-shaven and walking without assistance, said he was ‘‘doing very well.’’

He told officials during his two-week recuperation at a hospital and a hotel in the capital, Majuro, that he left Mexico in late 2012 with another fisherman when a storm threw them off course and he drifted across 6,500 miles of open ocean.

He said he survived on fish, birds, and turtles.

The other fisherman later died.

About 50 officials, volunteers and reporters gathered at the airport to see off Alvarenga.

He was flying first to Hawaii and then on to El Salvador to be reunited with his family.

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