4 children who survived 40 days in the Colombian jungle are recovering as heartbreaking details emerge

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The four indigenous children who survived 40 days in the Amazon jungle after their plane crashed were recovering in a military hospital in Colombia on Sunday, as new details of their heartbreaking stories emerged in a country still hypnotized by their saga.

The children, aged 13, 9 and 4 years and 11 months, are expected to stay for at least two weeks in a hospital receiving treatment after their rescue on Friday, but some are already talking and want to do more than lie on a bed, according to family members.

Manuel Ranoque, father of the two youngest children, told reporters outside the hospital on Sunday that the eldest of four surviving children – Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 13 – told him their mother had been alive for around four days after the death. plane crash in May. 1 in the Colombian jungle.

Ranoque said that before she died, the mother would likely have told them, “go”, apparently asking them to leave the wreckage site to survive. He did not provide further details.

Fidencio Valencia, a child’s uncle, told news outlet Noticias Caracol that the children were starting to talk and one said they were hiding in tree trunks for protection in a jungle filled with of snakes, animals and mosquitoes. He said they were exhausted.

“At least they are already eating, a little, but they are eating,” he said after visiting them at the military hospital in Bogota, Colombia. A day earlier, Defense Minister Iván Velásquez said the children were being rehydrated and could not yet eat.

The children were traveling with their mother from the Amazon village of Araracuara to San José del Guaviare when the plane crashed.

The Cessna single-engine propeller plane was carrying three adults and all four children when the pilot declared an emergency due to engine failure. The small plane fell off radar soon after and a search for survivors began.

Dairo Juvenal Mucutuy, another uncle, told local media that one of the children said he wanted to start walking.

“Uncle, I want shoes, I want to walk, but my feet hurt,” Mucutuy said, the child told him.

“The only thing I said to the kid (was) ‘when you recover, we’ll play football’,” he said.

Authorities and family members said the children survived by eating cassava flour and seeds, and that some familiarity with rainforest fruits was also key to their survival. The children are members of the Huitoto indigenous group.

After being rescued on Friday, the children were airlifted to Bogota and then to the military hospital, where President Gustavo Petro, government and military officials, and family members met the children on Saturday.

Air Force video released on Friday showed a helicopter using lines to pull the youngsters because it could not land in the dense rainforest where they were found. On Friday, the military tweeted photos showing a group of soldiers and volunteers posing with the children, who were wrapped in thermal blankets. One of the soldiers lifted a bottle to the lips of the smallest of the children.

General Pedro Sanchez, who was in charge of the rescue efforts, said the children were found 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the crash site in a small clearing. He said rescue teams passed within 20 to 50 meters (66 to 164 feet) of where the children had been found a few times, but missed them.

Two weeks after the crash, on May 16, a search party found the plane in a thick area of ​​rainforest and recovered the bodies of the three adults on board, but the small children were nowhere to be found.

Soldiers from helicopters dropped boxes of food into the jungle, hoping it would help provide for the children. Planes flying over the area fired flares to help ground search teams at night, and rescuers used loudspeakers that played a message recorded by the siblings’ grandmother telling them to stay at home. same place.

The Colombian army sent 150 soldiers with dogs to the area, where mist and thick foliage severely limited visibility. Dozens of volunteers from native tribes have also joined in the search.

Ranoque, the father of the younger children, said the rescue shows how, as “indigenous people, we are trained to search” in the middle of the jungle.

“We proved to the world that we found the plane…we found the children,” he added.

The Colombian government, which is trying to end internal conflicts in the country, has highlighted the joint work of the military and indigenous communities to find the children.

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