Girl, four, survives 11 days in freezing and bear-infested Siberian forest
Child had only her puppy for company in freezing bear-infested Siberian wilderness
A four-year-old girl was recovering in hospital yesterday after being lost for nearly two weeks in a bear-infested forest in the Russian north with only her puppy to defend her.
Karina Chikitova was found emaciated but alive having survived 11 days in the Siberian wilderness, where temperatures plunge below freezing at night, with only berries to sustain her.
The little girl had left her tiny village in Russia's Sakha region with her dog on July 29 to go and stay with her father who lived in a neighbouring hamlet. But her father had gone to fight a forest fire and the girl set off by herself into the forest to find him.
With no mobile phone signal in the sparsely populated region where native Yakut people live from hunting and reindeer herding, her mother realised only after four days that her daughter had set off on her own.
Despite a massive search, the breakthrough came only when Karina's puppy traipsed back to the hamlet - in which only eight people live - allowing rescuers to send search dogs on its trail.
"We were sure that the puppy was next to the little girl all this time, warming her at night and scaring away wild animals," rescuer Afanasiy Nikolayev said.
When the dog came back "we thought this is it" for Karina, as temperatures had dropped below freezing at night.
A TV report said searchers kept to creeks and meadows, going into the forest only in the presence of special forces because there were so many bears in the area.
The search team came across Karina's footprints two days later and found her lying in tall grass about 6km north of her village.
"She didn't say a thing ... she just cried quietly and reached out her arms," Artyom Borisov, a volunteer who spotted Karina, said.
A spokesman of the regional rescue service said: "She asked for water and food right away. It's simply incredible that she was found safe with so much wildlife in the forest." The girl said she ate berries and drank water from the river to survive.