The President of Colombia announced on Wednesday that four children were found alive in thick jungle more than two weeks after the plane they were traveling in crashed.
President Gustavo Petro tweeted: “After arduous search efforts by our Military Forces, we have found alive the 4 children who had disappeared due to the plane crash in Guaviare. A joy for the country.”
Después de arduas labores de búsqueda de nuestras Fuerzas Militares, hemos encontrado con vida a los 4 niños que habían desaparecido por el accidente aéreo en Guaviare. Una alegría para el país.
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) May 17, 2023
However, local media have reported that defense sources had no confirmation that the children had been found.
Plane crashed in Colombia’s jungle
The plane – a Cessna 206 – was carrying seven people on a route between Araracuara, in Amazonas province, and San Jose del Guaviare, a city in Guaviare province, when it issued a Mayday alert due to engine failure in the early hours of May 1 .
Three adults, including the pilot, died as a result of the crash and their bodies were found inside the plane. One of the dead adults, Ranoque Mucutuy, was the mother of the four children aged 13, 9 and 4, as well as an 11-month-old baby, who survived the impact.
The family are from the Huitoto people, an indigenous group in south-eastern Colombia and northern Peru.
Reuters reports that according to information from the civil aviation authority, which coordinated the rescue efforts, the children escaped the plane and set off into the rainforest to find help.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Colombian military said search efforts had been stepped up after a “shelter built in an improvised way with sticks and branches” was found, indicating there were survivors.
#LoÚltimo | Gracias a la orientación de nuestro canino Ulises, las Fuerzas Especiales encontraron un refugio improvisado y elementos que darían indicios del rastro de los menores desparecidos tras el accidente de la aeronave Cessna 206. pic.twitter.com/dxTPbZqkPA
— Fuerzas Militares de Colombia (@FuerzasMilCol) May 17, 2023
In photographs published online, scissors and a hair band had been discovered in the branches on the jungle floor. Earlier a baby bottle and some half-eaten, discarded fruit had also been found by rescuers.
The thick rainforest and extremely isolated location of the crash hampered search efforts, with military planes and helicopters assisting the search teams on the ground.
One helicopter played out a recorded message from their grandmother in the Huitoto language telling the children to stop moving through the rainforest, AFP news agency reports.
Colombian authorities have not yet given the cause of the plane crash but the country’s disaster response body said the pilot had reported problems with the engine minutes before the plane disappeared from radar systems.
Guaviare in southeastern Colombia lies in an area of tropical, semideciduous rainforest merging into the Llanos (grassland plains) to the north.
It is bounded to the north by the Guaviare River; to the east by the highlands of the mesas (tablelands) Cubiyú and Carurú; to the south by the departamentos of Vaupés and Caquetá; and to the west and north by Meta departamento.