Fate of Colombia plane crash children unknown; Petro deletes tweet

A soldier and a dog take part in a search operation for child survivors from a Cessna 206 plane that had crashed in the jungle more than two weeks ago, in Caqueta

BOGOTA (Reuters) -The fate of four children who were missing after a plane crash in southern Colombia was unclear on Thursday after President Gustavo Petro deleted a Tweet saying they had been found alive, adding in a new message that reports of their discovery were unconfirmed and the search still ongoing.

The children have been missing since May 1, when the plane they were traveling in crashed in thick jungle.

On Wednesday, Petro said in the now-deleted Twitter message that the children, aged 13, 9 and 4, as well as an 11-month-old baby, had been found alive thanks to arduous searching by members of the armed forces.

"I have decided to delete the tweet because it hasn't been possible to confirm the information provided by the (child welfare agency)," he said, adding that searches were ongoing.

"I'm sorry it happened," he said. "At this time there's no other priority other than moving forward with the search until you find them. The children's lives are the most important."

The plane - a Cessna 206 - was carrying seven people on a route between Araracuara, in Amazonas province, and San Jose del Guaviare, a city in Guaviare province, when it issued a mayday alert due to engine failure in the early hours of May 1.

Three adults, including the pilot, died as a result of the crash and their bodies were found inside the plane.

Preliminary information from the civil aviation authority, which coordinated the rescue efforts, suggests the children escaped the plane and set off into the rainforest to find help.

Rescuers, supported by search dogs, had previously found discarded fruit the children ate to survive, as well as improvised shelters made with jungle vegetation.

Airplanes and helicopters from both Colombia's army and air force participated in the rescue operations.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Oliver GriffinWriting by Oliver Griffin and Alistair Bell)