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Man who got lost at sea survived for 24 days with ketchup

By Melanie Uson Published Jan 20, 2023 3:02 pm

How long would you survive being lost in the middle of the sea?  

A man who got stranded in the middle of the sea for 24 days said he survived by eating ketchup before being rescued in Colombian waters, as reported by the country’s naval authority. 

In an interview video released by the Colombian Navy, 47-year-old Elvis Francois recounted how he survived being stuck in the middle of the sea for almost a month without food. 

“I had no food. There was only a bottle of ketchup that was on the boat, garlic powder, and (bouillon cubes) Maggi. So I mixed it up with some water for me to survive 24 days in the sea,” he shared. 

As reported by AFP, Francois was repairing a sailboat off a harbor on the Caribbean Island of St. Maarten in the Netherlands in December 2022 but got lost in the sea after being swept out due to bad weather. 

He tried seeking help through his mobile phone but ran out of signal. 

“Without having any knowledge of navigation, he was lost and disoriented at sea. His efforts to maneuver the vessel and the equipment on board were to no avail,” the statement read. 

Francois carved the word “help” on the hull of the boat in an attempt to seek rescue when rescuers saw him in “120 nautical miles (222km) north-west of Puerto Bolivar in the northern department of La Guajira.” 

Apart from this, Francois also tried to flag down and light a fire on his vessel whenever there was a boat that will pass by him, but to no avail.  

Finally, his final attempt succeeded when he tried sending signals to a plane. 

“The final days, about the 15th of January, I saw a plane. I had a mirror. I was making some signals,” he said, sharing that he used the mirror to catch the reflection of the sun and draw attention to the plane.  

Understanding Francois’ signal, the aircraft crews informed the Navy and were able to rescue Francois through a merchant ship. 

“They passed over the boat twice so I realized they saw me,” he continued, sharing how grateful he is to be able to get out from the sea with the help of the aircraft crews. “I am grateful for being alive today because of them.” 

The 47-year-old man shared that whenever he loses hope in a dire situation, especially alone, what helped him to regain strength is when he thinks about his family.  

Upon his rescue, doctors examined Francois, who fortunately managed to be in good health. 

“It was very rough. I don’t know how I am alive today but I am alive. And I am grateful for that,” he said. 

After his rescue, Francois was handed over to the immigration authorities to be able to return to his country.