Colombia’s president on Thursday admitted that he made a mistake in announcing the rescue of four Indigenous children after their plane crashed in the Amazon Rainforest.
Expressing “joy for the country,” President Gustavo Petro wrote on Twitter that the children, one of them a child, were found after “difficult search efforts” by the military. DW was one of the news outlets that covered his initial comments.
Early in the morning of May 1, the plane carrying seven people between Araracuara, in the province of Amazonas, and San Jose del Guaviare, a city in the province of Guaviare, suffered engine failure.
While three adults, including the pilot, died in the plane crash – it is suspected that four children aged 13, 9 and 4, as well as an 11-month-old baby, survived the impact.
How was the mistake made?
Writing on Twitter, Petro said he deleted his tweet from Wednesday night when he announced the rescue of the children.
He explained that he received the information from the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) but the rescue teams did not confirm the news.
“I am sorry for what happened. The military forces and Indigenous communities will continue their tireless quest to give the nation the news it has been waiting for,” said Petro.
“At this time there is no other priority but to continue the search until you find them. The lives of the children are the most important thing.”
Petro’s announcement on Wednesday was met with confusion. It lacks details of where or how the children were rescued, or how they survived alone in the forest. Adding to the uncertainty, the military has not confirmed any rescues.
The ICBF confirmed that it has forwarded the news to the president. It is said that the officials received a report from the area that the children on board the plane were found alive and in good health.
With this news, “and with the knowledge of the reports made by the indigenous communities in the area,” the ICBF said it is in contact with other government agencies to ensure the care of the children.
“Immediately, this information was also sent to the Presidency of the Republic for the president to announce the news to the country.”
“However, the military forces have not been able to establish an official record due to the difficult weather conditions and difficult terrain, so they tirelessly continue the search efforts that have yielded many found in the area and will allow the information to be. verified.”
The rescue operation
On Wednesday, the armed forces said that rescue efforts were intensified when the remains of a “shelter built in an improvised manner with sticks and branches” were found.
The search, dubbed “Operation Hope,” was made more difficult by heavy rains, fear of wild animals, and large trees that grew as high as 40 meters (131 feet) – obscuring the view from in the air.
The rescue operation was carried out in the Amazon rainforest in the province of Caqueta in Colombia through the joint efforts of the military, firefighters, and officials of the civil aviation authority. The region where the plane crashed has very few roads and is also difficult to access by rivers, so air travel is often used.
More than 100 soldiers with sniffer dogs were deployed for the search operation.
One of the three helicopters used in the search operation hovered over the forest and played a recorded message from the children’s grandmother telling them to stop moving in the forest.
mf, rc/msh (Reuters, AFP)