US & World

Alaska man survives three weeks with little food and shelter

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Media captionThe moment police rescued Tyson Steele

A man has been rescued after surviving more than three weeks in the Alaskan wilderness with little food and shelter.

State authorities rescued 30-year-old Tyson Steele after a fire destroyed his remote cabin.

He lived on canned foods that survived the blaze and made a basic tent out of debris in the sub-zero temperatures.

Authorities only found Mr Steele after concerned family members asked them to check on him.

He had written an SOS message in the snow by the remains of his house, and video released by Alaska State Troopers shows the moment of his rescue.

Police have released their interview with Mr Steele, in which he told the story of his survival and rescue.

‘Felt like I tore my lung out’

He bought the cabin – made from tarpaulins and planks – from a Vietnam war veteran. The hut was in the remote Susitna Valley, north-west of Anchorage, about 20 miles from the town of Skwentna.

Mr Steele is not sure exactly what night the fire started, as he has been living alone in the cabin since September. But he believes it was 17 or 18 December when he put a big piece of cardboard in his wood fire stove.

“It started with a pretty hasty mistake,” he said. “I’ve had woodstoves all my life. I knew that you don’t do that. So, it sent a spark out through the chimney which landed on the roof.”

Mr Steele woke up to “fiery drips of plastic” falling from his roof early in the morning. He ran outside wearing only boots, long johns and a jumper to see that the cabin was fully ablaze.

He ran back in to grab blankets and his rifle as smoke filled the room. But he was unable to save his chocolate labrador, Phil. He thought the dog had escaped but only realised he was trapped inside when he heard howling from the burning cabin.

“I was hysterical,” he told police. “I have no words for what sorrow; it was just, just a scream… Felt like I tore my lung out.”

‘I’m not exactly trained’

The fire ignited hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a propane tank in the cabin – stored near the food supply. “It was like a war zone,” Mr Steele said.

He shovelled snow on the blaze for hours, but could not save the shelter.

He gathered what cans of food had survived – many had popped open in the heat, and he said all the food ended up tasting like burning plastic – and spent the first two nights in a snow cave. He then fashioned a basic tent from scraps of tarpaulin, built in a dome around the woodstove.

“It is by no means a cosy cabin that I was able to put together,” he said. “It just took the edge off.”

Image copyright AFP PHOTO / ALASKA STATE TROOPERS
Image caption The authorities rescued Tyson Steele by helicopter

M Steele managed to keep the wood stove burning by using tree bark and a candle he kept with him. He stamped a SOS sign in the snow, using ash to make the letters stand out, and made a trail to the frozen lake nearby where he thought a rescue plane could land.

“I’m not exactly trained. I’ve just always been in the outdoors,” he said. “Watched a lot of YouTube videos.”

He was eventually saved when his relatives concerned by his lack of contact asked authorities in Alaska to check up on him.

After his ordeal, Mr Steele said he would go back to see his family in Utah.

“They’ve got a dog,” he told officers, “And that would be some therapy.”

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-51090157

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