Four children, who went missing in the Colombian Amazon after a plane crash on May 1, have been found alive by the rescue team, said Colombia's President Gustavo Petro on Friday.
Making the announcement of the successful operation, Petro, in a tweet translated to English, said, "A joy for the whole country! The 4 children who were lost 40 days ago in the Colombian jungle were found alive.”
The four siblings, from the indigenous community, were rescued by the military close to the site of the crash, near the border between Colombia's Caqueta and Guaviare provinces. The Cessna 206 plane was travelling to San Jose del Guaviare, a city in Guaviare, from Araracuara, in Amazonas province, when it suffered an engine failure. The aircraft was carrying seven people on the flight. The crash left three, including the children's mother Magdalena Mucuty and the pilot, dead. Their bodies were discovered by the search team inside the plane.
Three children aged 13, 9, and 4 years old and a 12-month-old infant survived the impact and were believed to have fled the crash spot in search of help.
A massive search operation, with 160 soldiers and 70 Indigenous people with intimate knowledge of the jungle, was launched to locate the missing children. The Colombian army also deployed aeroplanes and helicopters in the rescue efforts, reported News Agency Associated Press.
The site of the crash is home to jaguars, snakes, and other predators, as well as armed drug smuggling groups, making the search more challenging.
The rescue team, supported by search dogs, discovered discarded fruit that the children may have eaten for survival. An improvised shelter made with jungle vegetation was also among the first clues.
Worried about the continuous movement of the children, the team of rescuers used the air force to drop 10,000 flyers into the forest with instructions asking them to stay put. The leaflet also carried survival tips.
Messages recorded by the children's grandmother, urging them not to move were also broadcast by the rescue team. The military dropped food parcels and bottled water to ensure that the children could survive till the time rescue was completed. As per the military officials, the children were discovered five kilometres west of the crash site.
Praising the rescue team, Colombia's President Gustavo Petro said, "The effective coordination between the military and the Indigenous people" during the search, saying it was an "example of an alliance for the country to follow."