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Sailor survives 24 days at sea with only ketchup and seasonings to eat

Elvis Francois of Dominica was rescued by the Colombian navy after he says his sailboat was swept off to sea while he was making repairs.

A sailor was rescued by the Colombia’s navy after what he said was a 24-day ordeal in which he only had a bottle of ketchup and some seasoning to eat.

Elvis Francois, 47, a national of Dominica, said in a video released by the navy that he spent 24 days with no sight of land before his rescue in the Caribbean Sea.

“I have no food. It’s just a bottle of ketchup that was on the boat. Garlic powder, and Maggi,” he said, referring to a seasoning. “So, I mixed it up with some water.”

Francois was rescued about 120 nautical miles northwest of the department of La Guajira, which is on the northeastern tip of the country, the navy said in a statement Wednesday.

In this photo provided by Colombia's Navy press office, castaway Elvis Francois is attended by Colombian Navy members after he was rescued near the department of La Guajira, in the extreme north of Colombia, as he sits on board the merchant ship CMA CGM Voltario at the port of Cartagena, Colombia, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. According to the Navy, the 47-year-old from Dominica said he had been adrift for 24 days in the Caribbean Sea after he was repairing a boat last December near the island of Sint-Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles.  (Colombian Navy press office via AP)
After his rescue, Elvis Francois is examined by a Colombian Navy member on board the merchant ship CMA CGM Voltario at the port of Cartagena, Colombia, on Monday.Colombian Navy press office via AP

He had written “help” on the hull of the boat, which was spotted by air, the navy said.

Francois was taken to Cartagena for medical care, and officials will help him get back home, the navy said.

In video released by the Navy and distributed by news services The Associated Press and Reuters, Francois tells medical staff he is doing OK.

“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 in the video. “A certain time, I lose hope. I think about my family.”

Francois said he was repairing his sailboat and was swept out to sea by a current off the island of St. Martin in the Netherlands Antilles, where he lives.

Francois said in the video he tried to go back to port, but couldn't, and he tried to call friends but lost service. "There was nothing else I could do than sit down and wait," he said.

He used a cloth to collect rainwater, Cmdr. Carlos Urbano Montes told the AP. Francois was picked up by a merchant ship.