Four indigenous children, including an 11-month-old baby, have been found alive in the dense Colombian Amazon following a plane crash more than two weeks ago, President Gustavo Petro said Wednesday, declaring “joy for the country”.
Petro shared the news on Twitter, saying the children had been discovered after “heavy search efforts” by the military.
Authorities had deployed more than 100 soldiers with sniffer dogs to search for the minors traveling on a plane that crashed on May 1, killing three adults.
Rescuers believe the children – including 13, 9 and 4 years old in addition to the 11-month-old – have been roaming the jungle in the southern department of Caqueta since the crash.
Earlier on Wednesday, the armed forces said search efforts were intensified after rescuers came across a “shelter built in an improvised manner using sticks and branches” that led them to believe there were survivors.
Photos released by the armed forces showed a pair of scissors and a hair tie tucked between branches on the jungle floor.
Earlier, a drinking bottle for a baby and a half-eaten piece of fruit had already been found.
On Monday and Tuesday, soldiers found the bodies of the pilot and two adults who had flown from a jungle location to San Jose del Guaviare, one of the main cities in the Colombian Amazon rainforest.
One of the dead passengers, Ranoque Mucutuy, was the mother of four children, who belong to the Huitoto ethnicity.
Giant trees that can grow up to 40 meters in height, wild animals and heavy rainfall made the quest of “Operation Hope” difficult.
Three helicopters have been deployed to assist, one of which broadcast a recorded message from the children’s grandmother in the Huitoto language telling them to stop trekking through the jungle.
Authorities have not indicated what caused the plane crash.
The pilot had reported engine problems minutes before the plane disappeared from radar, Colombia’s disaster response agency said.
It is a region with few roads and also difficult to access by river, so air travel is common.
The Huitoto, also spelled Witoto, are known for living in harmony with the remote jungle and for their hunting, fishing, and gathering skills that may have helped the children survive.
Exploitation, disease and assimilation have greatly reduced the population over many decades.
Petro, who announced the bailout, is Colombia’s first leftist president.
He came to power last August but was unable to implement the fundamental reforms in labor law, health care, pensions and the judiciary that he promised during his campaign.
(This story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)