Approximately 1,200 people comb forests in search of missing autistic boy in Germany

The largest search operation to date was carried out on Sunday for a 6-year-old autistic boy who went missing in northern Germany about a week ago.

Police, soldiers, firefighters, THW Civil Protection personnel and hundreds of volunteers teamed up to search an area centered around the town of Bremerfelde, west of Hamburg.

A total of about 1,200 people took part in the search for the boy, named Ariane. But by evening, he was still nowhere to be seen.

Ariane left her parents’ home alone on Monday evening. Surveillance cameras showed the boy running toward nearby woods. The family home is located in Elm, a small suburban community in Bremerfelde.

The search area, which had previously focused on the area around Elm, was expanded to more remote areas on Sunday. As part of the effort, a 1.5km wide human chain was moved from north to south towards Elm.

Boats, drones and search dogs were deployed, while the Federal Technical Rescue Service (THW) and fire services searched ditches and pipes.

Approximately 60 soldiers wearing night vision goggles also participated.

The “large number of troops” deployed on Sunday “shows there is still hope for us”, a police spokesperson said. Investigators said there was no sign of foul play in Ariane’s disappearance and the search continued Monday.

Ariane has autism and his family says he doesn’t always respond when spoken to.

The boy had always been interested in fireworks, so earlier this week search teams set off fireworks to try to attract him, and firefighters hung sweets and balloons in the woods near the boy’s parents’ home.

Police divers also searched the nearby Oste River.

German emergency vehicles arrive and the search continues for the missing 6-year-old alien from Elm. Lars Penning/DPA

German emergency vehicles arrive and the search continues for the missing 6-year-old alien from Elm. Lars Penning/DPA

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