Exhausted but ‘joyful’: Four indigenous children who wandered for 40 days in the Colombian jungle rested in a military hospital in Bogota on Saturday as the country continued to rejoice over the ‘miracle’ and hail unprecedented cooperation between soldiers. Natives during search operations.
“I saw my grandchildren. First they have life. Even though they are very tired, I know they are in good hands,” their 47-year-old grandfather Fidencio Valencia told the press. Huitoto Indian.
“They are happy to see the family (…) they have all their feelings”, rejoiced their grandfather, tying a traditional native pooncho around his neck, in front of the capital’s military hospital.
The Minister of Health commented that the children “are a little worried seeing so many people around, but they are recovering and talking a little (…), it’s great to see them like this”. Ivan Velázquez, after a visit to their bed with President Gustavo Pedro.
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A few bites
Leslie, 13, Solini, 9, Dien Noriel, 5, and Christine, 1, were found alive by rescuers Friday afternoon after they wandered alone in the woods after their small Cessna 206 plane crashed on May 1. Traveling with their mother, pilot and cousin. All three adults died in the accident.
“They were dehydrated (…) but generally their condition is acceptable. They are not in danger”, Mr. Velasquez welcomed.
Two children had celebrated their birthdays in the forest, he pointed out: the youngest Christine was one year old, and Tien Noriel was five years old.
Mr. Velasquez paid tribute to the elder Leslie: “Thanks to her, her dignity and her leadership, the other three were able to live, with her care, her knowledge of the forest”.
Apart from “a few skin sores and bites,” an army doctor noted that the children had “no pathology or any poor health conditions.” “They are in stable condition, examinations are ongoing” and a re-nutrition protocol is being administered to them along with psychological support.
Depending on the duration of their nutritional care, their hospitalization should last two to three weeks.
The four “talk a little, but they are happy (…) they are children (…), they love to play, especially Christine,” Astrid Caceres, director of the Family Welfare Institute, commented to journalists. (ICBF), Responsible Management of the Family.
Flour and seeds
“This little one is wonderful, calm with the nurses,” said Mrs. Caceres, who was amused, and began: “Our thanks to the elder Leslie, she is such a strong young woman!”.
The official also revealed that the siblings came across a dog named Wilson, a military tracking sheepdog, on their wanderings. He got lost in the jungle, but the army vowed to continue searching for him under the “Principle: We leave no one behind”.
“Children of the bush,” they “survived first on some flour (as in the plane crash), then on seeds,” according to their grandfather, and the first images broadcast by the military showed them weak and emaciated. And without shoes.
They were airlifted from the jungle to the city of San Jose del Guerrero by helicopter, airlifted to Bogotá overnight, and hospitalized at a military health facility.
“We have achieved the impossible,” hailed the commander of the Colombian Armed Forces, General Helder Bernan Giraldo, while the entire country rejoiced at this quadruple “miracle.”
President Gustavo Pedro announced the news on Friday evening by invoking “a magical day” and “joy” in the country, hailing it as “an example of total survival that will go down in history.”
For the National Organization of Amerindian Peoples of Colombia (Opiac), it was their indigenous status, and this special bond with nature, that played in favor of their survival in the bush.
“The survival of the children is a testament to the tribal knowledge and relationship with nature, a bond taught from the womb,” said an Opiac press release.
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A “Land of Peace”
More than 100 soldiers with detection dogs and dozens of natives have been searching for the children since the plane was found, putting their noses to the ground amid thick vegetation.
On Saturday, all officials praised the cooperation of commandos and tribal volunteers, as decades of civil strife and violence in this country have left a certain mistrust between these two actors.
“The natives, without their experience and their knowledge of the jungle, could not have achieved this unexpected result, all the soldiers recognize it”, Minister Velazquez underlined: “They were the guides of our commandos in the jungle “.
The army said the rescuers traveled nearly 2,656 km for more than a month in this impenetrable forest in a very hostile environment where jaguars, pumas, snakes and other predators roam. All kinds of insects are especially volatile, rain is daily, without access to drinking water.
“By working with the troops”, tribal volunteers have “increased the state’s response capacity”, an ICBF official observed. “All worked together” gives the image of a “land of peace”. “There has never been an operation like this in Colombia,” she enthused.
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