A toddler has “miraculously” survived four days lost in the wilderness after wandering off into the woodlands near her home in a remote part of rural China.
Seven hundred police officers and villagers spent days searching for the 22-month-old girl, nicknamed Xiaojiao, in the rolling hills of Rong county in the southern region of Guangxi, with the aid of drones and rescue dogs.
The child had been playing with two of her siblings, aged four and six, near the small village of Shuikou when she wandered off, Yulin Daily and the Yulin Evening News reported on Saturday.
Her father, a farmer named Chen Qingran, asked family members to look out for her when she failed to return home for dinner but failed to report her disappearance officially until the next afternoon.
“From the time the child went missing to when we received the alert was nearly 24 hours, so we missed the best search time,” Huang Jianfeng, director of the local police station, was quoted as saying.
“That not only increases the difficulty of the search, but the possibility for accidents.”
For three days, police and hundreds of volunteers scoured fish ponds, waded through rivers and combed the dense hilly woodlands that surround the village.
The girl went missing during the rainy season, which meant that the artificial waterways in the area were swollen and the steep, grassy slopes of the hills were slippery – all of which raised concerns that the child had drowned or fallen.
Investigators also scanned surveillance footage and stopped suspicious vehicles in the area.
The multi-pronged search stretched late into the evenings, but yielded no results.
But on Friday morning, nearly four days after Xiaojiao had gone missing, a villager heard strange noises coming from an area of bushes on a steep incline above a canal.
He notified police, who arrived on the scene to find the child buried in the brush, covered in cuts and insect bites, but still alive.
Xiaojiao was rushed to a health clinic and transferred to a hospital where she was treated for dehydration and bruising.
Reports indicate that the child is in stable condition.
“This is a miracle,” a police official was quoted as saying.