In a remarkable turn of events, three children and a baby have been found alive more than two weeks after a plane crash in the Colombian Amazon jungle. Colombian authorities had deployed a team of over 100 soldiers with sniffer dogs to search for the children, who were passengers on the ill-fated plane that crashed 17 days ago, claiming the lives of three adults.
Colombia’s President, Gustavo Petro, shared the joyful news on Wednesday through a tweet, expressing his satisfaction with the “arduous search efforts” made by the military. He described the discovery as a source of joy for the entire country.
Earlier on the same day, the Colombian armed forces revealed that search efforts had intensified after rescuers stumbled upon a makeshift shelter constructed from sticks and branches. This finding led them to believe that survivors might be present. However, the Colombian military has not officially confirmed the discovery of the children.
Later, Colombia’s El Espectador news outlet reported that the military had not received official confirmation of the children’s rescue. Nonetheless, a government agency reportedly received information indicating contact had been established with the children.
Avianline Charters, the owner of the crashed aircraft, stated that one of its pilots in the search area had been informed of the children’s rescue. According to the pilot, they were being transported by boat downstream and were all alive. However, the company also emphasised that there had been no official confirmation that the children were entirely out of danger, as thunderstorms in the area still posed a risk to their safety.
Photographs released by the armed forces revealed scissors and a hair tie among branches on the jungle floor. Prior to this, a baby’s drinking bottle and a partially eaten piece of fruit had been found.
Rescuers believe that the four children, aged 13, nine, four, and 11 months, had wandered through the jungle in the southern Caqueta Department since the May 1 crash.
During the search operation on Monday and Tuesday, soldiers discovered the bodies of the pilot and two adults. The group had been flying from a remote jungle location to San Jose del Guaviare, one of the main cities in Colombia’s Amazon rainforest. The region’s limited road access and challenging river routes often necessitate transportation by small planes.
Ranoque Mucutuy, one of the deceased passengers, was the mother of the four children, who belong to the Huitoto ethnicity.
Three helicopters were utilised in the search operation, with one of them broadcasting a recorded message in the Huitoto language from the children’s grandmother, urging them to stop moving through the jungle.
The “Operation Hope” search faced numerous challenges, including towering trees reaching up to 40 meters (131 feet) in height, wild animals, and heavy rainfall.
Authorities have not yet determined the cause of the plane crash. The pilot had reported engine problems just minutes before the aircraft vanished from radar, according to Colombia’s disaster response agency.