With his announcement, Colombia's President Gustavo Petro had put many people in excitement: The "Operation Hope" had succeeded, four children, including an eleven-month-old baby, had been found alive more than two weeks after a plane crash in the dense Colombian Amazon rainforest, Petro had announced on Wednesday on Twitter. On Thursday, he rowed back. Petro acknowledged that the children had not been found after all.
"I have decided to delete the tweet as the information provided by the Family Authority could not be confirmed," Petro wrote on Twitter. "I regret what happened. The armed forces and indigenous communities will continue their tireless search to deliver the message to the country it is waiting for. At the moment, there is no other priority than to continue the search until they are found. The children's lives are the most important thing."
They are 13, 9 and 4 years old, as well as 11 months old. They have been searched for since a Cessna 1 propeller plane crashed on May 206 on its way from Araracuara to San José del Guaviare in the south of the country with seven people on board. Because the terrain there is difficult to access, the rescue workers were only able to advance on Tuesday to the wreck near the village of Solana in the department of Caquetá. Three bodies were discovered at the crash site, including the mother of the four children, according to the aviation authority.
According to a report in the newspaper El País, Petro was quick to break the news about the rescue of the children. The Instituto de Bienestar Familiar, the authority responsible for the protection of minors, had informed him about the rescue of the children. The agency was referring to information from members of a community in the crash area. They had claimed that the children had been found alive and were in their care. Due to bad weather and a high water level of the river, they could not have been brought to the authority, it said. As El País writes, the armed forces were skeptical about whether the news was true. Petro nevertheless brought them to the public.
The head of the Instituto de Bienestar Familiar, Astrid Cáceres, told Caracol Radio on Thursday that she had strong indications that the children were still alive. A source assured her that the children had been identified. "The level of accuracy we have received makes us expectant and we are waiting for contact because satellite communications were interrupted and we could not re-contact the group where the children are." A group of indigenous people is said to have found the children. "We need to understand that the jungle is complex and communication is difficult in the region," Cáceres continued. There are few roads in the region and access via rivers is also difficult, which is why the search is carried out by plane.
According to information from the dpa news agency, armed forces found fresh traces on Thursday. They would have discovered footprints in the damp soil near a stream. More than 100 members of the special forces took part in the search for the siblings.