4 kids lost for 40 days in Colombian Amazon found alive

Four Indigenous children who had been missing for more than a month in the Colombian Amazon rainforest were found alive.
4 kids lost for 40 days in Colombian Amazon found alive

One of the four Indigenous children who were found alive after being lost for 40 days in the Colombian Amazon forest following a plane crash is stretchered out of a plane upon landing at the CATAM military base in Bogota on June 10, 2023.

Four indigenous children who had been missing for more than a month in the Colombian Amazon rainforest were found alive and flown to the capital Bogota early Saturday.

The children, who survived a small plane crash in the jungle, were transported by army medical plane to a military airport at 0:30am Saturday (5:30am GMT).

They were immediately taken off the plane on stretchers with ambulances waiting to bring them to hospital.

"Today we have had a magical day," President Gustavo Petro told the media earlier on Friday, after announcing their rescue.

"They are weak. Let's let the doctors make their assessment," he added.

The president had posted a photo on Twitter showing several adults, some dressed in military fatigues, tending to the children as they sat on tarps in the jungle. One rescuer held a bottle to the mouth of the smallest child, whom he held in his arms.

"A joy for the whole country! The 4 children who were lost 40 days ago in the Colombian jungle were found alive," he wrote on Twitter.

Video shared by the Defense Ministry late Friday showed the children being pulled up into a helicopter as it hovered over the tall trees in almost complete darkness.

Originally from the Huitoto Indigenous group, the children — aged 13, 9, 4 and 1 — had been wandering alone in the jungle since May 1, when the Cessna 206 in which they were traveling crashed.

The pilot had reported engine problems only minutes after taking off from a jungle area known as Araracuara on the 350-kilometer journey to the town of San Jose del Guaviare.

The bodies of the pilot, the children's mother and a local Indigenous leader were all found at the crash site, where the plane sat almost vertical in the trees.

Officials said that the group had been fleeing threats from members of an armed group.

A massive search involving 160 soldiers and 70 Indigenous people with intimate knowledge of the jungle was launched after the crash, garnering global attention.

The area is home to jaguars, snakes and other predators, as well as armed drug smuggling groups, but ongoing clues — footprints, a diaper, half-eaten fruit — led authorities to believe they were on the right track.

Worried that the children would continue wandering and become ever more difficult to locate, the air force dumped 10,000 flyers into the forest with instructions in Spanish and the children's own Indigenous language, telling them to stay put.

The leaflets also included survival tips, and the military dropped food parcels and bottled water.

Rescuers had also been broadcasting a message recorded by the children's grandmother, urging them not to move.

According to the military, rescuers found the children about 5 kilometers west of the crash site.

Huitoto children learn hunting, fishing and gathering, and the kids' grandfather, Fidencio Valencia, had told AFP the children are well acquainted with the jungle.

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