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Child plane crash survivors in “acceptable” state of health

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BOGOTA (Reuters) -Four Indigenous children who were missing for more than five weeks in Colombia’s southern jungle, after surviving a plane crash which killed their mother, are in an “acceptable” state of health, the government said on Saturday.

The siblings were found on Friday in Caqueta province after weeks of searching by the military, Indigenous communities and others, and were initially treated by military medics before being transported to a military hospital in capital Bogota.

President Gustavo Petro, his family and other officials visited the children at the hospital on Saturday morning, with Petro saying on Twitter the rescue was an example of different groups coming together for the common good.

“In general the boy and the girls are in an acceptable state. According to the medical reports they are out of danger,” Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez said during a press conference after the visit.

The children are not yet able to eat, he added, but are being hydrated and stabilized.

“They are very thin but I know they’re in good hands,” the children’s great-uncle Fidencio Valencia told journalists as he left the hospital. “We never expected to find them so well.”

Velasquez recognized the eldest of the siblings, a 13-year-old girl, for her bravery.

The youngest of the children turned one while in the jungle, while her brother had his fifth birthday, he said. The other sister is nine.

The siblings have some insect bites and other minor injuries, army Major General Carlos Rincon said, but “life-threatening conditions are ruled out.”

Clues as to the siblings’ whereabouts have been reported for weeks as the search, dubbed Operation Hope, continued.

Wilson, one of the military dogs which participated in the operation, is now himself missing, but an effort to find him is taking place, the military has said.

In photos shared by Colombia’s military, the children appear gaunt.

It is unclear whether they have already been reunited with their father, Manuel Ranoque, who was not on the airplane and participated in the search.

Their ordeal began in the early hours of May 1, when the Cessna 206 aircraft carrying seven people and traveling between Araracuara airport in Caqueta and San Jose del Guaviare, a city in Guaviare province, issued a mayday alert due to engine failure.

Three adults, including the pilot and the children’s mother, died in the crash and their bodies were found inside the plane.

(Reporting by Carolina Pulice and Luis Jaime Acosta, Additional reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Carolina Pulice and Oliver Griffin; Editing by Jamie Freed and Andrea Ricci)

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