Venezuelan authorities finally located 16 people who had vanished in Venezuela's Andes Mountains on August 22. The group, whom the local media had labelled as "religious fanatics" and a "cult of extraterrestrials" had set off on a religious retreat.
The group was led by a self-proclaimed spiritual leader
They were led by a spiritual leader who claimed she had a revelation from the Virgin Mary that world would end. The 57-year-old persuaded the group to join her on a trip to the Andes Mountains to meet God and the Virgin Mary. The group included five children and a baby less than a month old.
Maria Villamizar, a government employee in the mountain town of La Grita, was shocked because they had never heard of something like this in the region. The police deployed more than 160 officers, aided by dogs and drones to find the group that had left their mobile phones behind. After days of search, they finally found the group safe and sound on a farm called El Rodeo.
Found safe and sound on a farm
Yesnardo Canal, a local police officer, said they showed the group videos on their phones of locals expressing concern about them. He said the children innocently said they had become famous, but the adults were ashamed and many apologized. Canal added members of the group were surprised as they had never thought about it resulting in a commotion. The search team transferred the group back to La Grita, early Friday, where they underwent medical and psychological examinations.
Some parents also expressed anger about their children taken on the retreat. Police said a father of six minors in the group had approached them for help when he was unable to reach them. Another parent revealed that his 13-year-old had gone on the retreat without their permission.
A local church expressed relief that the group has been found. Deivis Marquez, the deacon of the church, shared that there was anxiety and "very crazy theories". He said it's a great joy that the lost people who live in and around La Grita, turned up. The missing group had become the talk of the town.
La Grita is regarded as an important agricultural hub in Venezuela and has a mystique for the Catholic parishioners. On August 6, every year, the town accommodates hundreds of pilgrims who come to give thanks to the Christ of La Grita for "his favors".