After 40 days in the Colombian rainforest, all four of the children who had been missing since the plane they were traveling in crashed on May 1 have been found alive, according to the Colombian president.
“They have achieved an example of total survival that will go down in history,” President Gustavo Petro said at a news conference on Friday evening.
When rescuers reached the site of the plane wreck last month, the bodies of the three adults on board were found, but there was no sign of the four children known to be on the plane.
In a case that has captivated the nation, local indigenous communities in the remote region, along with the Colombian military, have begun scouring the jungle for the children, aged 13, 9, 4 and 1.
The children are “weak” and are receiving medical care, Petro said.
The children were initially treated by combat medics from the special forces that had been deployed in the research, and later transferred to the military base in the city of San José del Guaviare, where they were in stable condition, the defense ministry said in a statement. declaration.
Early Saturday morning, some of the children were photographed be transported on stretchers from a plane that had landed at a military airport in Bogotá, the capital. National media reported that all four were later taken to a military hospital for the Cure.
“We want to share the happiness of all the Colombian people with this true miracle that we have known tonight,” Defense Minister Iván Velásquez said in a video posted on social media.
It was unclear on Saturday morning who had found the children or how they had managed to survive so long in a dense jungle prone to heavy rains and home to jaguars and venomous snakes.
“It is a true miracle. It will be news for years to come,” said Pedro Arenas, a human rights activist in San José del Guaviare. “After 40 days, this is truly incredible news. So there’s a lot of joy, there’s really happiness.
The children, members of the Huitoto indigenous community, had traveled with their mother and an indigenous leader from the small Amazonian community of Araracuara, Colombia, to San José del Guaviare, a small town in central Colombia along the Guaviare River. The pilot reported engine failure and declared an emergency before the aircraft disappeared from radar around 7:30 am on 1 May.
The Colombian Air Force and other branches of the military soon deployed search-and-rescue aircraft and helicopters, as well as land and riverine teams. The indigenous communities of the region have joined the effort.
Using a loudspeaker that produces a sound loud enough to be heard within a radius of about a mile, they played a recording made by the children’s grandmother in Huitoto, their native language, telling the children to stay in one place and that people there they were looking for .
Conflicting details about the case have confused and angered many Colombians. On May 17, Mr Petro announced on Twitter that the children had been found alive. But the next day, he retracted the good news, saying that the country’s child welfare agency, the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare, had received the wrong information.
In recent weeks, authorities have said they have reason to believe the babies were still alive, pointing to footprints, diapers and shoes found during the search.
“They defended themselves. It’s their knowledge of indigenous families, their knowledge of how to live in the jungle, that saved them,” Petro said at the news conference. “They are the children of the jungle. And now they are children of Colombia”.
Federico Rios AND Mike Ives contributed report.