‘The evidence suggests they are still alive!’ Fresh hope in search for four missing children a MONTH after their plane crashed in Amazon jungle as rescuers find tiny footprint and more half-eaten fruit
- Four children missing in the Amazon jungle could still be alive, say search party
- Colombian military has issued a picture of a footprint believed to be that of a girl
Four indigenous children lost in the Amazon jungle after a plane crash nearly a month ago are believed to still be alive, army officials said, as the search continues in treacherous terrain.
The children, aged 13, nine, four and 11 months old, wandered in the jungle after a light aircraft crash in the southeast of Colombia on May 1
The crash claimed the lives of the three adults on board: the children’s mother Magdalena Mucutui Valencia, the pilot, and an Indigenous leader.
There was no sign of the children when the wreckage was recovered by the Colombian military.
Over 100 men are involved in the search for the four youngsters, those leading the mission say it is ‘highly probable’ the minors are still alive due to the clues they have been finding.
The latest hint about the children’s possible whereabouts is a footprint found on the muddy ground in the jungle, that army officials believe is that of 13-year-old Lesly
Soldiers search for the missing children in the Colombian Amazon rainforest, in the southwestern municipality of Solano
The latest hint about the children’s possible whereabouts is a footprint found on the muddy ground in the jungle, that army officials believe is that of 13-year-old Lesly, the eldest of the missing children.
Satellite images have since revealed a path the kids took from the plane wreck, and rescuers have come across some of their belongings, a makeshift shelter and a half-eaten fruit.
Last week, they found a pair of shoes and a nappy.
‘Based on the evidence, we concluded that the children are alive,’ rescue team leader General Pedro Sanchez told W Radio on Monday.
‘If they were dead, it would be easy to find them because they would be still and the sniffer dogs would find them,’ he added.
On the morning of May 1, a Cessna 206 airplane left a jungle area known as Araracuara heading for the town of San Jose del Guaviare in the Colombian Amazon.
Minutes after starting the 350-kilometer (217-mile) journey, the pilot reported problems with the engine and the plane disappeared from radars.
Between May 15 and 16, soldiers found the bodies of the three adults and the debris of the plane stuck vertically in the thick vegetation, its nose destroyed.
Another picture released by the Colombian army shows a footprint found in the forest in a rural area of the municipality of Solano, Caqueta, in southwestern Colombia yesterday
The Colombian military has been following the possible trail of the four missing children
The crash is believed to have happened due a mechanical failure on May 1. The front of the aircraft was found completely destroyed
The missing children include four-year-old Tien Noriel Ronoque Mucutuy, pictured here with his mother Magdalena Mucutuy Valencia, who died in the plane crash
Nine-year-old Soleiny Mucutuy, pictured, is missing in the jungle with his three brothers
But the children – Lesly, 13, Soleiny, nine, Tien Noriel, four, and baby Cristin – were missing.
Some 200 soldiers and Indigenous people with knowledge of the terrain have been combing a dense jungle area of some 320 square kilometers (124 square miles) – about double the size of Washington, DC.
The air force had dumped 10,000 flyers into the forest with instructions in Spanish and the children’s own Indigenous Huitoto language, telling them to stay put.
The leaflets also included survival tips, and the military has dropped food parcels and bottled water for the children.
On Sunday, the army placed powerful searchlights with a range of up to three kilometers in the area ‘so that the minors can approach us,’ search team member Colonel Fausto Avellaneda told the Noticias Caracol TV show.
Rescuers have also been broadcasting a message recorded by the children’s grandmother, urging them to stay put so the soldiers can find them.
The general said the search team believed it had come to within 100 meters (328 feet) of the children, but storms, thick vegetation and marshy terrain prevented them from reaching the kids.
Air force helicopters and satellite images are being used in the search in an area home to jaguars, pumas, snakes and other predators, as well as armed groups that smuggle drugs and terrorize local populations.
With all hands on deck, members of the Indigenous community are holding traditional ceremonies ‘speaking to the jungle’ and asking it to give up the children, according to the government.
In photographs released by the military, scissors, shoes, and hair ties could be seen among branches on the jungle floor.
A baby’s drinking bottle and half-eaten pieces of fruit had been spotted before the shelter’s discovery.
More than 100 soldiers with sniffer dogs are following the trail of the four missing children in the Colombian Amazon
Colombian president Gustavo Petro declared the rescue a ‘joy for the country’ – only for his military and search and rescue teams to clarify that they had no found the children
A baby bottle and a pair of scissors were among items the rescuers found which gave them hope of survivors as they searched the jungle for the missing children
The plane crash happened in Solano, Caqueta. The front of the aircraft was found destroyed
More than 100 soldiers with sniffer dogs walked through the jungle in the south of Colombia searching for the missing children
Sniffer dogs and three helicopters were deployed in search of the children, but wild animals, heavy rain and tree height have prolonged the rescue operation
A half-eaten piece of fruit was another item found by rescuers, giving them hope of survivors
A label of a headband found in the forest also suggested the children could be alive
On Monday and Tuesday, soldiers found the bodies of the pilot and two adults who had been flying from a jungle location to San Jose del Guaviare, one of the main cities in Colombia’s east where grasslands give way to Amazon rainforest.
Giant trees that can grow up to 40 meters tall and heavy rainfall have made the search difficult.
Three helicopters have been used, one of which blasted out a recorded message from the children’s grandmother in their native Huitoto language telling them to stop moving through the jungle.
Authorities have not said what caused the plane crash.
The pilot had reported problems with the engine just minutes before the plane disappeared from radars, Colombia’s disaster response body said.
It is a region with few roads and is also difficult to access by river, so plane transport is common.
The children are from the Indigenous Huitoto community, also spelled Witoto, who are known for living in harmony with the jungle.
The community develops skills in hunting, fishing and gathering, which may have helped the children to survive.
Exploitation, disease and assimilation have reduced the Huitoto population sharply over many decades.
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