Colombia finds children lost in the jungle after airplane crash

The President of Colombia reported that the four indigenous children aged 13, 9 and 4 years and an 11-month-old baby were found alive.

After 17 days wandering in the Colombian Amazon, eating jungle fruits and at the mercy of wild animals, four indigenous children who were missing after a plane crash were found alive on Wednesday by rescue teams.

They are three children aged 13, 9 and 4 years old and an 11-month-old baby who had been missing since May 1, when the aircraft in which they were traveling apparently crashed due to a mechanical failure.

“After arduous search efforts by our Military Forces, we have found alive the 4 children who had disappeared due to the plane crash (…) A joy for the country,” said President Gustavo Petro on Twitter.

Led by the military, the search efforts ended with a death toll of three people, including the pilot and the mother of the four siblings of the Huitoto ethnic group.

More than 100 soldiers with sniffer dogs followed the trail of the children and walked through the jungle between the departments of Caquetá, where the plane was left with the front part destroyed, and Guaviare, both in the south of the country.

Petro did not detail where the children were rescued or how many kilometers they managed to travel while they were lost. The soldiers had found a “shelter built in an improvised way with sticks and branches”, so they suspected that there was at least one survivor.

Scissors, hair ties, shoes, clothes and a bottle placed in the middle of branches in the jungle served as clues for the soldiers. They also found “bitten jungle fruits,” Germán Camargo, director of Civil Defense in the department of Meta, where they coordinated the rescue and extraction of the bodies of the pilot and two passengers who were located in the department of Caquetá, told the AFP agency.

“Operation Hope” to search for four children lost in the jungle

The Air Force joined the so-called “Operation Hope” with three helicopters that flew over the dense jungle. One of them carried a loudspeaker “capable of covering an area of about 1,500 meters” with a message recorded by the children’s grandmother. In the Huitoto language, the woman tells her grandchildren that they are being sought and asks them not to continue advancing through the jungle.

The authorities have not informed the reasons for the flight of the indigenous family. In this region, which is difficult to access by river and has no roads, the inhabitants usually travel on private flights.

According to the Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), the Huitoto live in “harmony” with the hostile conditions of the Amazon and preserve traditions such as hunting, fishing and gathering wild fruits. The pilot reported problems with the aircraft’s engine minutes before the accident, according to the official disaster response body.

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