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Four children have been found alive after a plane crash in the Amazon, Colombia’s president said

Four indigenous children, including an 11-month-old baby, were found alive in the dense Colombian Amazon after a plane crash more than two weeks ago, President Gustavo Petro said Wednesday, declaring “joy for the country.”

Petro said on Twitter that the children were found after “intense search efforts” by the military, which has yet to confirm the rescue.

More than 100 soldiers with sniffer dogs were deployed to search for minors traveling in a plane that crashed on May 1, killing three adults, including the pilot and the child’s mother.

A soldier and a dog take part in a search operation for children who survived a Cessna 206 plane that crashed in the jungle in Caqueta, more than two weeks ago.

A soldier and dog search for child survivors from a Cessna 206 plane that crashed in the jungle more than two weeks ago on May 17, 2023 in Caqueta, Colombia.

Colombian Air Force / Handout via Reuters

Rescuers said they believed the children – including an 11-month-old, a 13-year-old, a nine-year-old and a four-year-old – had been wandering through the forest in South Caqueta division since the accident.

Petro did not give any details about where the children were rescued or how they survived alone in the forest.

Avianline Charters, the owner of the crashed plane, said one of its pilots in the search area was told the children had been found and were being “taken by boat downriver and they are all alive.”

However, the agency also said there was “no official confirmation” that the children were completely out of danger and that thunderstorms in the area still posed a risk of them reaching safety.

The armed forces earlier said their search efforts intensified after rescuers saw an “improvised shelter made of sticks and branches”, leading them to believe there were survivors.

In photos released by the army, scissors, shoes and hair ties can be seen among the branches on the forest floor.

A search of the shelter revealed a baby’s drink bottle and a piece of half-eaten fruit.

On Monday and Tuesday, soldiers found the bodies of the pilot and two adults who had flown from the jungle location to San Jose del Guaviare, one of the main cities in Colombia’s Amazon rainforest.

One of the passengers killed was Ranoke Mukutui, a mother of four.

Giant trees that can grow up to 40 meters tall and heavy rainfall made the “Operation Hope” search difficult.

Three helicopters were used to help, one of which blasted a recorded message from the child’s grandmother in their native Huitoto language asking them to stop moving through the forest.

Authorities did not specify the cause of the crash.

Colombia’s disaster response agency said the pilot reported engine trouble minutes before the plane disappeared from radar.

It is a region with few roads and difficult to access by river, so air transport is common.

The children are from the indigenous Huitoto community, also spelled Witoto, who are known for living in harmony with the remote forest.

The community developed skills in hunting, fishing and gathering, which helped the children survive.

Exploitation, disease and assimilation have drastically reduced the population over many decades.

Petro, who announced the rescue, is Colombia’s first left-wing president.

He came to power last August but failed to deliver fundamental reforms to labor laws, health care, pensions and the justice system that he had promised during his campaign.

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