Four Colombian children who survived in the Colombian jungle for 40 days after their plane crashed were eager to play and asked for books to read, officials said on Saturday. one day later the group was rescued.
The siblings, aged 1 to 13, were recuperating in a military hospital in the capital, Bogotá, and were said to be in good health and in good spirits on Saturday when they were visited by President Gustavo Petro and other managers.
The country has been captivated by the children’s story, and many have been anxiously awaiting news of their whereabouts since their plane crashed on May Day. The children, members of the indigenous Huitoto community, were traveling with their mother and an indigenous chief from the small Amazon. community of Araracuara, Colombia, in San José del Guaviare, a small town in central Colombia along the Guaviare River.
When rescuers arrived at the crash site last month the bodies of the three adults they were traveling with were found, but there was no sign of the children.
Officials had said in recent weeks they had reason to believe the children survived the crash. When news of their survival and discovery broke on Friday, the country erupted in joy.
Carlos Rincón, the military doctor who evaluated the children, said they only survived with minor cuts and scrapes. In photos released by the government on Friday, the children appeared emaciated and the doctor said they were not yet receiving solid food. He said he expected them to be discharged from hospital in two to three weeks.
Defense Minister Iván Velásquez, who was among the officials who visited the children, praised the eldest, 13-year-old Lesly Mucutuy, for ensuring the group’s survival.
“We must recognize not only his courage, but also his leadership,” he said. “It is thanks to her that the three little brothers and sisters were able to survive by her side, with her care, with her knowledge of the jungle.”
Lesly’s 9-year-old sister, Soleiny, “talks a lot,” said Astrid Cáceres, director of the national child protection agency. Tien, 5, asks for books to read, while the one-year-old “has a peace of mind working with the nurses that you can’t imagine”, Ms Cáceres added.
“Lesly smiled at us, gave us hugs,” she said. “She wants to play, she’s bored in bed.”
Two of the children’s birthdays passed while they were in the jungle. Tien turned five and the youngest, Cristin, turned one.
“The celebration of anniversaries is overdue,” Ms. Cáceres said at the press conference. “So we invite the country at this time to celebrate.
She added that all four children “have an assured education” because of “commitments with the President to protect and care for these children throughout their lives.”
The government provided few details on how the children were located.
Special forces troops found the children late Friday afternoon by following footprints and food traces, according to a military spokesman.
The children were “very weak”, he said. “I think if a few more days had passed, we wouldn’t have found them alive.”
“Miracle, miracle miracle was the key word to signal that they had found them,” he added.
In a coordinated search effort called Operation Hope, soldiers and Natives traveled approximately 1,650 miles in search of the siblings.
After visiting the hospital with his wife and two daughters, President Petro hailed cooperation between the military and indigenous groups and “respect for the jungle” on Twitter.
“Here is a different path for Colombia,” he wrote. “I believe this is the true path to peace.”