Sfourteen days after a small plane crashed in the Colombian Amazon rainforest, the country is holding its breath over disturbing reports that four children have survived the ordeal.
The siblings – 13-year-old Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, nine-year-old Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, four-year-old Tien Noriel Ronoque Mucutuy and 11-month-old Cristin Neriman Ranoque Mucutuy – were aboard the Cessna 206 airplane. crashed on May 1 near Guaviare province.
Their mother Magdalena Mucutuy, the plane’s pilot, and another passenger died in the accident but the minors have not been found, the Colombian Air Force said in a statement. statement.
Efforts to find the children have intensified in recent days after rescue crews found evidence of their survival in the vast Amazon rainforest, including hair ties, children’s scissors and a baby bottle
On Wednesday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced that the minors had been found and were in good health. But a few hours later, he went back on that statement, explaining that the Air Force and indigenous communities had established contact with the children, but their location remained unknown.
With a massive search underway and the nation hoping for good news, here’s everything we know about the crash and the miraculous survival of the children:
A trip means reuniting a family
Mucutuy traveled with her children to Bogotá to meet her husband Manuel Ranoque and start a new life together.
According to El Tiempo, Mr Ranoque, who is related to a local political leader, used to live in the indigenous reserve of Puerto Sábalo with his family.
He had to flee the community on foot after receiving threats from crime groups operating in the area. Mr Ranoque completed his odyssey through the jungle and eventually arrived in Bogotá.
He reportedly found a job and saved up money for a month and a half to pay for his family’s transportation from their remote community to the Colombian capital.
But dreams of a reunion were shattered when the small plane carrying Mr Ranoque’s wife and children crashed. The plane was on a route between Araracuara in Amazonas province and San Jose del Guaviare for the first leg of the trip when it disappeared in the early hours of 1 May.
The aircraft was reported missing the same day but was not found until 15 May, due to poor weather conditions delaying search operations.
Mucutuy’s mother, Fátima, told El Tiempo that she herself had been exploring parts of the forest with other members of the indigenous community.
“I’m waiting for them to come back [my daughter’s] body. He has been living in the forest for a long time. I’m waiting for him,” said Fátima. “God is good and I know the children will be found alive.”
Evidence of survival
Civil aviation authorities, who are coordinating the rescue operations, believe the children escaped the plane after the crash and went into the rainforest to seek help.
Efforts to find them were stepped up after rescue teams, including search dogs, found discarded fruit that the children ate to survive and improvised shelters made of forest plants. Hair ties, children’s scissors and a nursing bottle were also found.
Authorities said the rescue efforts included three helicopters, including one that broadcast a recorded message from the children’s grandmother in the Huitoto language telling them to stop moving in the forest.
Confusion over the whereabouts of the children
On Wednesday, Mr Petro claimed in a statement on Twitter that the children were found after a search by more than 100 members of the military, firefighters and aviation authority officials in the civil forest of Caqueta province in Colombia.
“After a thorough search by our military, we have found alive the four children who went missing after the plane crash in Guaviare. A joy for the country,” he said.
Mr Petro deleted his previous tweet, issuing an apology on Thursday: “I decided to delete the tweet because the information provided by [the government’s child welfare agency, ICBF] cannot be confirmed. I apologize for the confusion.
“The Military Forces and the indigenous communities will continue their tireless search to give the country the news it has been waiting for. At this time there is no other priority but to continue searching until you find them. The lives of those child is the most important thing.”
Government officials are ‘very confident’ children will soon be found
The ICFB said it had received information “from the field” that the children were found to be in good health. However, defense ministry sources told local media that they had no confirmation that they had been found.
“Information was received from the area confirming that contact was made with the four children who were part of the group on board the plane. This report states that they were found alive and in good health,” said a statement from the ICBF. “However, military forces have not been able to establish official contact due to adverse weather conditions and difficult terrain,” the statement added. Authorities have not been able to ” confirming information received by the ICBF from various sources.”
ICBF director Astrid Cáceres said Snail Radio on Thursday that the children were safe but the officials lost communication through satellite with them. However, Ms Cáceres said they have sent teams to three key areas where the children are believed to be, and she is “very confident” they will be found soon.
According to News Caracol reporter Sneyder Rico, the indigenous community in the area said the children were traveling on a speedboat but had no means of communication. It is reported that they are expected to arrive in the rural area of Cachiporro.