NEW DELHI: It was a tale of fortitude, courage and survival when four kids, aged 11 months to 13 years, were miraculously found alive after 40 days in the dangerous Amazon jungle.
The discovery of the kids marked a happy ending to an intensive search-and-rescue saga which involved sniffer dogs, helicopters and aircraft and had the entire nation of Columbia on the edge.
In a jungle infested with snakes, mosquitoes and other predators, it would have been a miracle for even an adult to survive for so many days. Naturally, the survival of the “lost” kids, one of whom wasn’t even a year old, has now prompted questions about their extraordinary story.
Here’s what happened and how the kids survived ..
The plane crash
The group of four children was travelling with their mother from the Amazonian village of Araracuara to San Jose del Guaviare when the plane crashed on May 1.
The crash took the lives of the pilot, the mother and a third adult.
The pilot had reported engine problems only minutes after taking off from a deep Amazon area known as Araracuara on the 350-kilometer (217-mile) journey to the town of San Jose del Guaviare.
Officials said the group, who are members of the Huitoto Indigenous group, had been fleeing threats from members of an armed group.
Lost in the jungle
The children had wandered into the jungle after surviving the plane crash, lost and scared.
First, they survived by eating a little flour (which was on board the plane) and then some seeds.
They also survived on roots and plants which they knew were edible thanks to their upbringing.
Fidencio Valencia, an uncle of the children, told reporters outside the hospital that the survivors were happy to see family members, who are taking a “day-by-day” approach to the situation.


Children lost for 40 days in Colombian Amazon found alive

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<p>Children lost for 40 days in Colombian Amazon found alive<br /></p>

“When the plane crashed, they took out (of the wreckage) a fariña, and with that, they survived,” Valencia said, referring to a cassava flour that people eat in the Amazon region. “After the fariña ran out, they began to eat seeds.”
When they were rescued, the children were found to be “very weak.”
General Pedro Sanchez, who led the search operation, said they had only enough strength to breathe or reach a small fruit to feed themselves or drink a drop of water in the jungle.
The oldest guided the other 3
The youngest two children, now five and one, spent their birthdays in the jungle, as Lesly, the oldest at just 13 years old, guided them through the ordeal.
“It is thanks to her, her courage and her leadership, that the three others were able to survive, with her care, her knowledge of the jungle,” defence minister Ivan Velasquez said.
The children’s grandmother Fatima Valencia said 13-year-old Lesly kept her younger siblings safe with her “warrior” spirit.
Massive search operation
It took a massive search operation involving 160 soldiers and 70 indigenous people with intimate knowledge of the jungle to find the kids. The operation also garnered global attention.
Army chief Helder Giraldo said rescuers had covered over 2,600 kilometers (1650 miles) in total to locate the children. “Something that seemed impossible was achieved,” Giraldo said on Twitter.
Columbian President Gustavo Petro posted a photo on Twitter showing several adults, some dressed in military fatigues, tending to the children as they sat on tarps in the jungle. One rescuer held a bottle to the mouth of the smallest child, whom he held in his arms.
He heralded the success as a “meeting of Indigenous and military knowledge” that had demonstrated a “different path towards a new Colombia.”
Small clues led to rescue
During the search, trackers found clues such as footprints, a diaper, and half-eaten fruit led authorities to believe they were on the right track.
Worried that the children would continue wandering and become ever more difficult to locate, the air force dumped 10,000 flyers into the forest with instructions in Spanish and the children’s own indigenous language, telling them to stay put.
Petro on Friday said the children were first found by one of the rescue dogs that soldiers took into the jungle.
He added that for a while he had believed the children were rescued by one of the nomadic tribes that still roam the remote swath of the jungle where the plane fell and have little contact with authorities.
“The jungle saved them,” Petro said. “They are children of the jungle, and now they are also children of Colombia.”
General Sanchez also credited the Indigenous people involved in the rescue effort with finding the children.
“We found the children: miracle, miracle, miracle!” he had exclaimed when they were found.
‘Children of the bush’
“They are happy to see the family… they have all their senses,” the children’s grandfather, Fidencio Valencia, told reporters shortly after visiting them.
“They are children of the bush,” Valencia said, adding that they know how to survive in the jungle.
The area is home to jaguars, snakes and other predators, as well as armed drug smuggling groups. But the siblings were not strangers to the jungle.
“They are indigenous children and they know the jungle well. They know what to eat and what not to eat. They survived because of this and their spiritual force,” said Luis Acosta of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia.
‘Example of survival’
President Petro, who visited the children Saturday, called them an “example of survival” and predicted their saga “will remain in history.”
Damaris Mucutuy, an aunt of the children, told a radio station that “the children are fine” despite being dehydrated and with insect bites.
Mucutuy, who arrived at the hospital at dawn with other family members, said the children had been offered mental health services.
Defence minister Velásquez told reporters Saturday the children were being rehydrated and cannot eat food yet. “But in general, the condition of the children is acceptable,” he said.
(With inputs from AP, AFP)

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