BOGOTA, Colombia – Four young children who went missing last month when their plane crashed in the Amazon rainforest were found alive Friday, Colombia’s minister of defense told the Washington Post.
“A joy for the whole country!” Colombian President Gustavo Petro tweeted Friday evening with a photo of the four siblings being treated by emergency responders in jungle camouflage.
The children, ages 13, 9, 4 and 1, survived in the jungle for 40 days. Their mother and two others died in the crash.
“They were alone. They themselves achieved an example of total survival. It will remain in history, so those children are today the children of peace and the children of Colombia,” Petro told local media.
The rescue mission – now dubbed Operation Miracle – saw more than a hundred military personnel and indigenous volunteers searching for the kids across a wide area, according to information shared by Defense Minister Iván Velásquez Gómez. The children are receiving medical care and are waiting to be transferred to San José del Guaviare, the capital city of the Guaviare department.
Petro had tweeted last month that the children had been found, only to retract the claim. The search continued.
The pilot of the small plane radioed an emergency call on May 1. The aircraft then vanished from tracking radar. Responders later found the crash site and three bodies, identified as the pilot, the children’s mother and another relative.
On May 17, they found an improvised shelter, apparently set up by the children, where they found scissors, hairbands and small footprints. The country’s child protection agency, the Institute of Family Welfare, released a statement just hours later saying that it had been informed that the children were “alive and in good health.”
But difficulties contacting the children – which the military attributed to difficult terrain and weather conditions – led to confusion about the well-being and whereabouts of the children.
Petro later apologized for his initial tweet. Fifty more members of the military were dispatched afterward to join the search; over 100 rescue workers were already combing the jungle.