“A miracle”, “a joy for the whole country!”. After wandering alone for 40 days in Colombia’s Amazon jungle, four children, aged 13, 9, 4 and one year, survivors of a plane crash, were found alive on Friday.
After announcing the rescue, President Gustavo Petro spoke of “a magical day” on his return from Cuba, where the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s last remaining guerrilla group, reached a six-month ceasefire agreement.
The children “were on their own, they did it themselves. It’s an example of total survival that will go down in history. These children are now the children of peace and the children of Colombia”, he said, praising the “effective coordination between the military and the indigenous people” during the search.
Lesly (13), Soleiny (9), Tien Noriel (4) and Cristin (1) were extracted from the jungle, winched out and transported by helicopter to the town of San Jose del Guaviare, then flown by medical plane to Bogotá on Saturday, according to AFP.
On arrival, they were evacuated on stretchers and loaded into several ambulances, to the applause of the military and journalists present.
General Pedro Sanchez, who led the search operation, told the press that he had received the message late Friday afternoon: “We’ve found the children! Miracle, miracle, miracle
The youngest, Cristin, is in the arms of one of her rescuers. She was one year old when she wandered through the jungle with her siblings, according to the Colombian press. The four faces appear very emaciated.
More than 100 soldiers accompanied by sniffer dogs and dozens of natives have been searching for the children since the plane was found, their noses planted on the ground amid thick vegetation.
According to the army, the rescuers involved in this “Operation Hope” had covered almost 2,656 km of impenetrable jungle in over a month.
The children’s chances of survival seemed to be diminishing by the day, in this very hostile environment where jaguars, pumas, snakes and other predators roam. Insects of all kinds are particularly voracious, and there is also the question of vital access to drinking water.
The region is also heavily influenced by FARC dissidents, an armed group with whom peace talks have recently broken down.