Four children who survived a plane crash have been found alive after being lost in the Colombian jungle for 40 days, according to the country’s president.
Gustavo Petro announced that the four siblings who disappeared after a plane they were on went down in the Amazon rainforest had survived their ordeal and were receiving medical treatment.
“A joy for the whole country! The 4 children who were lost 40 days ago in the Colombian jungle appeared alive,” Mr Petro tweeted on Friday.
The president said the youngsters, who were found alone, are an “example of survival” and predicted their saga “will remain in history.”
The siblings – 13-year-old Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, nine-year-old Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, four-year-old Tien Noriel Ronoque Mucutuy, and 11-month-old Cristin Neriman Ranoque Mucutuy – were travelling in a Cessna 206 plane when it crashed on 1 May near the Guaviare province.
Their mother Magdalena Mucutuy, the plane’s pilot, died in the accident but the children were nowhere to be found, according to the Colombian Air Force.
Days into the initial search Mr Petro announced that the minors had been located and were in good health. But hours later, he walked back that assertion, clarifying that the Air Force and indigenous communities had established contact with the children, but that their location remained unknown.
Ms Mucutuy was travelling with her children to Bogotá to meet her husband Manuel Ranoque and start a new life together.
According to El Tiempo, Mr Ranoque, who is related to a local political leader, previously lived in the indigenous reserve of Puerto Sábalo with his family.
He had to flee the community on foot after receiving threats from crime groups operating in the area. Mr Ranoque completed his odyssey through the jungle and eventually arrived in Bogotá.
He reportedly found a job and saved money for a month and a half to afford his family’s transport from their remote community to the Colombian capital.
The search for the children has captivated Colombia during the 40 days since they vanished after surviving the crash.
Mr Petro told reporters that the children were alone when they were found, according to the AP.
On 1 May, the plane carrying six passengers in addition to the pilot suffered an engine failure and declared an emergency. After the plane fell off the radar, the search for any survivors started.
The plane wasn’t found until two weeks later on 16 May in the rainforest. The remains of the three adults on the plane were located, but the children weren’t there.
The Colombian armed forces flew 150 soldiers with dogs to the area to search for the siblings with dozens of volunteers from Indigenous tribes also joining the search efforts.
As they searched in areas with low visibility because of the forest and mist, soldiers in helicopters dropped boxes of food into the jungle for the children to hopefully find.
At night, planes fired flares to help ground crews search, and megaphones were used with a recording by the children’s grandmother telling them to stay in one place.
At one point, rumours emerged concerning the children’s location and Mr Petro tweeted on 18 May that they had been found but soon deleted the message, saying that he had been misinformed by one of the government agencies.
The children were travelling with their mother from Araracuara, a village in the Amazon, to San Jose del Guaviare, a small city on the outskirts of the rainforest. The children are a part of the Huitoto people, with officials saying that the oldest siblings have a level of understanding of how to survive in the forest.
The president said on Friday following the finding of the children that for a time he thought that they had been rescued by one of the nomadic tribes that still travel through the jungle with little interaction with the authorities.
During the search, signs that the children were alive appeared, including footprints, a baby bottle, diapers, and fruit with what appeared to be human bite marks.
“The jungle saved them,” Mr Petro said, according to the AP. “They are children of the jungle, and now they are also children of Colombia.”