The fate of the children remains unknown.
Petro’s whiplash reversal drew attention to the story of the children, four siblings who are 13, 9, 4 and 11 months old. On May 1, the small plane they were traveling in disappeared from radars, according to authorities. The bodies of their mother and two other people were later found by authorities at the site of the crash.
More than 100 members of the military, as well as three rescue dogs, have been involved in the search for survivors, the Colombian Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement Wednesday, adding that Indigenous communities have also taken part in the rescue effort.
The first positive sign came Wednesday, when the aviation authority announced that rescuers had discovered a makeshift shelter created from sticks and branches, as well as a pair of scissors and some hairbands. Footprints, apparently made by children, were reportedly found as well.
Just hours later, the country’s child-protection agency, the Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF), released a statement on Twitter saying it had received information “confirming contact” with the four children, who were reportedly found “alive and in also good health.”
The agency informed the president, the statement said, but added that “military forces have not yet been able to officially establish contact, due to the difficult weather conditions and the difficult terrain.” These conditions had also posed a challenge to the military as it was conducting its search. On Friday, 50 more soldiers were dispatched to aid in the search.
Since those initial reports, however, the government and the military have been unable to make direct contact with the children, leading to confusion about their whereabouts and well-being.
The director of the ICBF, Astrid Caceres, told local media that the agency had heard from two reliable sources that the children had been found. However, Caceres said she was waiting to see photos of the children to serve as conclusive proof or their survival.
Petro apologized Thursday for contributing to the confusion. “I regret what happened,” he tweeted. “At this time there is no greater priority than moving forward with the search until [the children] are found.”