Colombian authorities announced the discovery of footprints in the southern jungles that they believe could help finally locate four indigenous children who went missing after their plane crashed a month ago.
“We have a 100% expectation of finding them alive,” Gen. Pedro Sánchez, commander of the Joint Command of Special Operations, told The Associated Press. He admitted that the search is extremely difficult work, not like finding a needle in a haystack but “like finding a tiny flea in a huge rug that moves in unpredictable directions.”
Members of Colombia’s special forces and dozens of indigenous people from the area have expanded the search through the jungle in the Colombia Amazon.
Searchers believe the footprints belong to the oldest child, a 13-year-old girl, and it may indicate the children, who are of the Huitoto indigenous people, are trying to find their way out of the jungle.
“We found elements that are very complex to find in the jungle,” Sánchez said. “For example, the lid of a baby bottle. If we’ve found that, why don’t we find the rest? Because the children are on the move.”
The other children are ages 9 and 4 years old, and the youngest is only 11 months old. The soldiers have already covered over 1,000 miles with sniffer dogs during their search, working in rotations against adverse conditions, including hours of rain that can wipe out any evidence.
The jungle also contains myriad wild animals, including jaguars, poisonous snakes and disease-carrying mosquitos. The Huitoto practice knowledge of fruits and jungle survival skills, which may have improved the children’s chances of survival, according to the BBC.
The crash occurred on May 1 during a flight from the southern town of Araracuara to the northern part of the country. The pilot reported engine failure and declared an emergency before crashing into the jungle.
Authorities found the remains of the small aircraft about two weeks after it crashed along with the remains of the pilot, his co-pilot and the children’s mother, Magdalena Mucutuy, 33.
Signs indicated the children were still alive and traveling through the jungle, but Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro has said it is impossible to verify much information.
President Petro said finding the children is a priority, and Sánchez added no deadline has been set for wrapping up the search.
Sánchez suggested that if the children had died, animals would be drawn to the remains and would have helped searchers find them.
The searchers have found a bottle, some towels, used diapers, scissors and footprints in places relatively close to the plane crash. The military deployed helicopters that played recordings of the children’s grandmother to try and reach the children and draw them to the search parties, but the rain may have drowned out the sounds, Sánchez said.
Reports in mid-May indicated the children may have found their way to an indigenous tribe, who would help return them to authorities to reunite them with their father, but the children never made contact and have not yet appeared.
President Petro said his government also could not confirm these reports.
Source: FOX News