Happy end to "Operation Hope": Four children, including an eleven-month-old baby, have been found alive in the dense Colombian Amazon rainforest more than two weeks after a plane crash. "Joy for the country," said Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Wednesday in the short message service Twitter. The children of the indigenous people of the Huitoto were found "after an arduous search by our armed forces".

Authorities had dispatched more than a hundred soldiers with sniffer dogs to search for the minors who were in a Cessna 206 that crashed on May 1. Three adult occupants were killed in the crash, including the mother of the four children.

Rescue workers believe that the four, nine and 13-year-old children with the eleven-month-old baby have been moving through the jungle in the southern department of Caqueta since the accident. According to the army, the search was intensified again on Wednesday morning after the helpers discovered "an improvised shelter made of sticks and twigs", suggesting at least one survivor.

Photos released by the armed forces showed scissors and a hairband on the floor of the jungle. Earlier, they had already found a vial and a half-eaten fruit.

On Monday and Tuesday, soldiers had found the bodies of the pilot and two other adults. They had come by plane from San José del Guaviare, one of the larger cities in the Colombian Amazon rainforest.

Grandma's voice from the loudspeaker

Huge trees that can grow up to 40 meters high, wild animals and heavy rainfall had made the search operation called "Operation Hope" more difficult. Three helicopters were used - one of them played a message spoken by the children's grandmother in the Huitoto language via loudspeaker: she asked them not to move from the spot because they were being searched for.

The indigenous Huitoto ethnic group is known for living in harmony with the jungle, as well as for their skills in hunting, fishing, and gathering wild fruit. This may have helped the children survive on their own for more than two weeks.

Due to exploitation, disease and assimilation, the population of the Huitoto has been greatly reduced over many decades.

The cause of the plane crash remained unclear. The pilot had reported problems with the engine before his plane disappeared from the radar, according to the Colombian disaster management agency.

There are few roads in the region and access via rivers is also difficult, which is why planes are the mode of transport of choice.