Because they have not been found, they are still alive, believe the authorities. Time passes but the hope of finding four children aged 13, 9, 4 years and 11 months who have been wandering alone in the Colombian jungle for nearly a month after a plane crash is still intact.
"From the evidence found, we conclude that the children are alive," Gen. Pedro Sanchez told W Radio on Monday. If they were dead, it would certainly be easy to find them because they would be motionless," and the sniffer dogs launched in search of them would "guide us."
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The 200 or so men mobilized, including soldiers and indigenous people who bring their knowledge of the jungle, have revived hope, with the discovery Wednesday of a pair of shoes and two diapers, including a used one.
The general even estimates that his units were "about 100 m" from the children "corroborating the clues found with the GPS", but that rain, vegetation and marshy terrain make the search difficult. "There, at 20 m, you can't see anything," he explains.
Pedro Sanchez, however, admits to finding it "strange" that the children "do not stop despite the dropping of survival kits" containing food, water, and "more than 10,000 leaflets" indicating the course to follow.
The plane lost since May 1
The Cessna 206 in which the children were traveling disappeared from radar on May 1 in the vicinity of San José del Guaviare, in the department of Caqueta, above the Amazon rainforest. He was found on 15 May, his nose crushed to the ground amid dense vegetation, with the bodies of the three adults on board, including the children's mother and the pilot.
The extensive search resources deployed made it possible to quickly find several "proofs of life", according to the rescuers, including footprints, chewed fruits, a bottle, or "a makeshift shelter made of sticks and branches". Then, later, scissors and a headband for hair. But since a hasty tweet by President Gustavo Petro on May 17, announcing before retracting the next day that the children had been found alive, nothing.
The search around the wreckage of the aircraft covers an area of about 323 square km, three times the area of Paris intramural. The Air Force joined the rescue operation dubbed "Hope", with three helicopters. Using a loudspeaker on board an aircraft, a message recorded by the children's grandmother was even broadcast. In the indigenous Uitoto language from which the siblings originate, she tells her grandchildren that they are wanted and asks them to stay where they are so that they can be rescued.
Projectors pointed to the sky
Satellite technologies are also being deployed to try to determine the path children might have taken through the jungle. On Sunday, the army pointed powerful searchlights with a range of three kilometers to the sky so that children "can get closer to us," Col. Fausto Avellaneda said on television.
Indigenous communities "carry out spiritual processes to ask the jungle to speak" in order to locate children, according to the government. The grandfather of the disappeared, Fidencio Valencia, says he trusts the eldest of the siblings, "strong" and "intelligent", who according to him managed to bring to safety his brothers and sisters, who are "used to the jungle". True to the beliefs of the Amazonian people, he said a supernatural and "mysterious" force had so far prevented the rescue.
According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), the Uitoto live in "harmony" in the jungle and maintain traditions such as hunting, fishing and gathering wild fruits. Authorities did not give the reasons for the family's flight. But the inhabitants of this region difficult to access, due to the absence of roads in particular, are often forced to travel on small planes. According to civil protection, the pilot had reported problems with the aircraft's engine before it disappeared from radar.