‘A miracle’: German girl found after two days missing in remote woods

In what has been described as “a miracle”, a young girl has been found after surviving two nights of near-freezing temperatures in a remote and mountainous Bavarian forest.

'A miracle': German girl found after two days missing in remote woods
Search teams at the scene in norther Bavaria. Photo: Armin Weigel/dpa

“She is alive, but she is suffering from hypothermia and has been taken to the hospital,” a spokesman for the Bavarian police headquarters said of the missing Julia, an eight-year-old girl from Berlin. 

A Czech forestry worker is reported to have found her after an extensive manhunt in which hundreds of emergency service workers on both sides of the German-Czech border were mobilised to hunt through dense trees and rocks.

Julia went missing in the forests on the border region to the Czech Republic while on a walk with her parents on Sunday in the vicinity of Cherchov mountain.

According to the police, Julia, her brother and a cousin disappeared into the woods and their parents were unable to find them. After they called the emergency services, the two boys were located but no one could find Julia.

Some 1,400 rescue workers from Bavaria and the Czech Republic took part in the search in the area between the towns of Waldmünchen, Furth im Wald and Domazlice. 

The Bavarian Red Cross described it as the largest cross-border search operation that had ever taken place in the region. “The fact that it was possible to find the child is tantamount to a miracle,” the rescue service stated on Facebook.

The helpers were in action for two days and two nights and were supported by 115 search dogs, police helicopters and drones with thermal imaging cameras.

With much of the area impassable due to rocks and crevices as well as dense tree cover, and with temperatures close to freezing at night, police feared a “life-threatening and serious danger.”

As recently as Tuesday morning, authorities worried that her chances of survival were diminishing by the hour.

“We mobilised everything, riot police, dog squads, helicopters with thermal imaging cameras, drones and search teams of the Alpine Task Force. In the end, it was a bit of luck that a Czech forester involved in the search operation found the girl,” said Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann.

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German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.