updated 8/16/2006 11:19:52 AM ET 2006-08-16T15:19:52

Three Mexican fishermen who claim they set out months ago from Mexico’s western coast have been rescued near the Marshall Islands — 5,500 miles to the west — after surviving on rain water and raw fish.

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Eugene Muller, manager of Koo’s Fishing Co., said by phone Tuesday that the company’s boat picked up the three on Aug. 9. Muller said the men were recovering and would be brought back to Majuro, the islands’ capital, in 10 to 14 days.

“We fished, and we ate the fish raw ... because there was no fire to cook with,” survivor Jesus Vidana, 27, told Mexico’s Televisa news network in a telephone hook-up to the ship’s communications system.

They once went 15 days without food but had enough drinking water because “it rained every day,” he said.

He said the three read the Bible as they drifted across the Pacific.

“We never lost hope because there is a God up there,” he said, sounding hoarse and sleepy. “Our feet are swollen, our arms are swollen ... but we’re not in that bad shape.”

9 months and 9 days
Vidana said he and the other two men set off on Oct. 28, 2005, from San Blas, a coastal town about 410 miles northwest of Mexico City, to fish for sharks. But mechanical problems and adverse winds quickly pushed their 27-foot boat out to sea.

“It was nine months and nine days,” Vidana recalled. “One of the guys on the boat has a watch that shows the months and the days.”

There was no independent confirmation of the date when the men set out from San Blas; phone calls to port officials there went unanswered.

However, the government news agency Notimex interviewed relatives of the men in San Blas, who said they had only been missing for three months.

‘We’re recovering’
Muller said the men’s boat appeared to have had engine problems.

“Their two motors had been dismantled, and it seemed they were trying to swap parts to get one working,” Muller said, noting that the ship’s captain had told him “they were very skinny and they were very hungry. The first thing we did, we gave them something to eat and they chowed down.”

Survivor Lucio Rendon, 27, recalled that “we didn’t see any ships for months,” and Vidana said they were asleep when the Koo’s crew called out to them.

“We’re recovering,” Rendon said, “sleeping a lot, and eating well.”

Salvador Ordonez, the third survivor, said the three carried only flashlights and a compass but no radio.

Still, he said, “I knew I was going to live, that I wasn’t going to die.”

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