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3 Aug, 2007 14:21

Rescued girls re-united with families

The two teenage girls who went missing in the Russian Urals more than a week ago have been re-united with their families. Masha Sorokina and Masha Tarnopolskaya disappeared while on a wildlife trip to a nature reserve in the Sverdlovsk region.

They are due to be flown to the regional capital, Ekaterinburg, for a medical check-up and then back home to Moscow.

A magnetic anomaly in the area meant the girls couldn't use a compass to find their way back to the campsite. Now back in civilization the young girls have been telling their survival story.

We ate berries, and walked and rested. We slept in trees – the trees are very old there and covered in moss – that's why it was warm, but it still very cold at nights. Sometimes we had to rely on intuition because our compass was not always right. The map was useless because we could not figure out our direction,

Masha Sorokina, one of the rescued girls

Rescuers describe the girls trek to safety as almost impossible.

“Being as lost as they were it would have been almost impossible to find them,” Andrey Zalensky, a rescuer.

According to officials, it is the largest search and rescue operation ever mounted in the region.

It involved 200 people including emergency crews, local residents, and military personnel.

Masha’s aunt Irina Marveeva was among those scouring the dense Siberian forest for any trace of the girls.

“We are amazed at their tenacity and very thrilled they are safe and well. I never doubted they are alive,” she said.

When rescuers found them, the youngsters had managed to find a river, despite being disorientated by the thick Siberian forest.

Although it’s been a traumatic time, the only physical reminder they have of their ordeal are some bruises and lots and lots of insect bites.