Disasters & Accidents

Rescue teams race against time to find children missing in Colombia plane crash

By Irene Escudero

San José del Guaviare, Colombia, May 20, (EFE).- Search and rescue teams are racing against time to try to locate the four children who went missing after the plane they were traveling in crashed 20 days ago in a jungle in Colombia

“We are looking for you. Do not move anymore, stay near a pipe or ravine. Make noise. Make smoke. We’re going to save you. We are close. Your grandmother Fatima and family are looking for you,” reads a bright pink flyer in Spanish and in the indigenous language of the children, the uitoto, that rescue teams have scattered across the search area, along with survival kits.

“We are going to call off (the search) when we find them,” the military’s special operations commander, General Pedro Sánchez, told the media in San José del Guaviare, where the search and rescue operations are being conducted.

However, the military forces admit that they have not found new clues since the last footprint in the basin of a river that they revealed on Saturday.

The whereabouts of Lesly Mukutuy, 11, Soleiny Mukutuy, 9, Tien Noriel Ronoque Mukutuy, 4, and 11-month-old Cristin Neruman Ranoque, who were on the plane that crashed on May 1 along with their mother and two other adults whose bodies have already been recovered from the aircraft, is still unknown.

More than 100 people have been deployed to look for them in the vast jungle in the south of the country where the Cessna 206 plane crashed.

The military forces have employed their best troops on the ground and in the air and are accompanied by indigenous people who know the area.

They’re hoping that the forest provides food, drink and shelter and that the children, belonging to a remote and Amazonian Uitoto indigenous community in Araracuara, have the tools to survive until they are found.

“That can extend the life span,” General Sánchez told EFE, revealing that so far they have not “heard a baby’s cry, nor a cry for help.”

On Saturday, the military launched, together with the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, 100 survival kits, which include water, oral serum, lighters, candy and cookies, for the children.

Operation Hope, as it is called, is perhaps one of Colombia’s biggest rescue efforts, and has been innovating for days on ways to speed up the search for the children, who were accompanying their mother on their first trip outside the community to visit their father.

The search area is a virgin forest, where it can rain up to 16 hours a day and where there are many poisonous snakes, boas, big cats and insects.

“It is inhospitable,” explained the special forces commander, who added that the area was also dangerous as it served as a hideout for armed groups such as the Central General Staff (EMC), the main FARC dissident group.

However, the military dismisses the possibility that the dissidents have children in their possession.

“It would be absurd for some criminal group to try to interfere in this search involving not only the best of the military forces, but also the indigenous community,” General Pérez said. EFE


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