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Rescuers in Washington state are praising the resourcefulness of a 10-year-old girl who survived on her own for more than 24 hours in the rugged terrain of the Cascade mountains after getting lost while out with her family.
Shunghla Mashwani was at a gathering with her extended family in the Cle Elum River Valley on Sunday when she became separated from the group as they crossed a pedestrian bridge over the river to eat lunch near the Cathedral Pass Trailhead, the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.

Kittitas County is about 137 kilometres east of Seattle.

Shunghla embraces her father after being found by rescuers at around 3pm the following day. (Kittitas County Sheriff Office)
The girl and her family arrived in the US two years ago from Afghanistan and like to spend time in the high backcountry because it reminds them of home, the sheriff’s office said.

“Shunghla told her family and rescuers she found herself suddenly separated and alone when the family was travelling back toward the footbridge and couldn’t find the bridge on her own,” the sheriff’s office said.

When the family noticed Shunghla hadn’t crossed the bridge with them, about 20 adults in the group went back and started searching, the post said.

There is no mobile phone service in the area and the family had been looking for Shunghla for about two hours when a passerby offered to call police from a satellite phone at their nearby cabin at around 2pm.

Shunghla said she got separated from her family and couldn’t find her way to the nearby bridge they had crossed. (Kittitas County Sheriff Office)

Deputies, volunteer ground search teams and crews from nearby law enforcement agencies swarmed the area.

Drones, helicopters and K9s were also brought in to help find Shunghla.

The sheriff’s office had the girl’s father record a message of reassurance in their native language that was broadcast over the search area, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office told CNN.

The message told Shunghla that there were people looking for her and trying to help.

“The search area was steep, rugged, and remote, with dense trees and undergrowth cut through by the fast-running Cle Elum River,” the sheriff’s office said.

Shunghla was rescued after spending more than 24 hours alone in the rugged terrain. (Kittitas County Sheriff Office)

She was spotted at around 3pm on Monday by two ground search volunteers about 2.4 kilometres south of where she was last seen, the sheriff’s office said.

She had only minor scrapes.

“I was trying to go to sleep in the night and then wake up early in the morning, and then I’ll find my dad and mum in the forest,” Shunghla told CNN affiliate KING of her night in the wilderness.

“She hiked downstream through the dense forest and spent the cold night between some trees. She said she knew it was the right thing to follow the river. She proved an extraordinarily resourceful and resilient 10-year-old,” the sheriff’s office said.

Rescuers loaded Shunghla into an inflatable rescue boat and brought her across the river to be reunited with her father.

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