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In this Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 photo shown on a tablet device and released by Willing Kajidrik of the Marshall Islands Sea Patrol on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, Jose Salvador Alvarenga, left, eats inside the cabin of a patrol boat while being transferred to Majuro, Marshall Islands, after being rescued. Salvadoran man Alvarenga, 37, washed ashore late last month. Alvarenga who says he spent more than a year drifting across the Pacific Ocean before making landfall in the Marshall Islands is too weak to travel and will remain in the island nation for a while, an official said Saturday, Feb. 9. He was taken last week to the Marshall Islands' capital, Majuro, where he has been resting at a hotel. (AP Photo/Willing Kajidrik) / Willing Kajidri

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (AP) - 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.

Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak bid Jose Salvador Alvarenga farewell at the airport.

"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, who later died, 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.

About 50 officials, volunteers and reporters gathered at the airport to see him off. He was flying first to Hawaii and then on to El Salvador be reunited with his family.

Alvarenga, accompanied by Diego Dalton, an official from El Salvador's embassy in Tokyo, said that people of the Marshall Islands were "very good" to him, and called them "my very good friends."

Alvarenga's spritely appearance a week ago while greeting hundreds of well-wishers in Majuro had many questioning his story. But he looked much weaker Thursday during a brief public appearance at the hotel, and had to be assisted into the room by two people while others stood by ready to help.

His family in El Salvador has spoken to him by phone since the story broke out. Alvarenga's 14-year-old daughter, Fatima, said last week that she didn't remember ever seeing her father, who left El Salvador when she was just over a year old.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read the original story: Salvador sea survivor flies out of Pacific island

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