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Colombian Children Rescued From Jungle Are Said to Be in Good Health

Four Colombian children who survived in the Colombian jungle for 40 days after their plane crashed were eager to play and asked for books to read, officials said on Saturday, one day after the group was rescued.

The siblings, aged 1 to 13, were recuperating at a military hospital in Bogotá, the capital, and were said to be in good health and spirits on Saturday, when they were visited by President Gustavo Petro and other officials.

The country has been captivated by the children’s story, with many eagerly awaiting news of their fate since their plane crashed on May 1. The children, members of the Huitoto Indigenous community, had been traveling with their mother and an Indigenous leader from the tiny Amazon community of Araracuara, Colombia, to San José del Guaviare, a small city in central Colombia along the Guaviare River.

When rescuers reached the crash site last month, the bodies of the three adults with whom they were traveling were found, but there was no sign of the children.

Officials had said over the past few weeks that they had reason to believe the children survived the crash. When news of their survival and discovery broke on Friday, the country erupted in celebration.

Carlos Rincón, the military doctor who evaluated the children, said they had survived with only mild cuts and scrapes. In photos released by the government on Friday, the children appeared gaunt and the doctor said they were not yet receiving solid food. He said he expected they could be discharged from the hospital in two to three weeks.

Defense Minister Iván Velásquez, who was among the officials to visit the children, praised the oldest, Lesly Mucutuy, 13, for ensuring the survival of the group.

“We have to recognize not only her courage, but also her leadership,” he said. “It was because of her that the three little siblings were able to survive by her side, with her care, with her knowledge of the jungle.”

Lesly’s 9-year-old sister, Soleiny, “talks a lot,” said Astrid Cáceres, director of the nation’s child welfare agency. Tien, 5, is asking for books to read, while the 1-year-old “has a tranquillity to work with the nurses that you cannot imagine,” Ms. Cáceres added.

“Lesly smiled at us, gave us hugs,” she said. “She wants to play, she is bored in bed.”

Two of the children’s birthdays passed during their time in the jungle. Tien turned five and the youngest, Cristin, turned one.

“The celebration of the birthdays is overdue,” Ms. Cáceres said at the news conference. “So we invite the country at this time to celebrate.

The government has provided few details on how the children were located.

Special forces troops found the children late Friday afternoon by following footprints and traces of food, according to a military spokesman.

The children were “very weak” he said. “I think if a few more days had passed we wouldn’t have found them alive.”

“Miracle, miracle miracle was the key word to report that they had found them,” he added.

In a coordinated search effort called Operation Hope, soldiers and Indigenous people covered approximately 1,650 miles while looking for the siblings.

After visiting the hospital along with his wife and two daughters, President Petro praised the cooperation between the military and Indigenous groups and the “respect for the jungle” on Twitter.

“Here is a different path for Colombia,” he wrote. “I believe that this is the true path to peace.”

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Mohammad SHiblu

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