Autistic child found after 4 days in Australian bush; police say his survival is a miracle

SYDNEY (AFP) - An autistic boy who went missing four days ago at an Australian camping ground was found alive on Tuesday, with the police describing his survival in the dense forest as a "miracle".

Luke Shambrook, 11, was spotted by a police helicopter walking in rugged terrain 3km from the Lake Eildon National Park campsite where he was last seen on Friday.

He was picked up by paramedics and taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.

"In some ways it's a miracle," Victoria Police Acting Commander Rick Nugent told reporters at the site. "You will have all seen the terrain here, how thick it is, how cold it's been of a night. We've had rain most of this morning. To spot him now is an absolute relief. And the joy by all of us that he's been found is just hard to describe."

Rescuers were given new hope late on Monday when they discovered a cap worn by Luke, the only item of clothing found after days of searching. It also provided a focus for Tuesday's efforts.

They had earlier been told that the 11-year-old liked to hide and had a fascination with water, prompting police divers to search the lake.

His family had also said that Luke might not respond to searchers' calls and may not even have realised he was lost.

Mr Nugent praised the child's resilience.

"An 11-year-old boy, challenged as he is with his autism, he's a courageous, resilient, strong young man," he said.

"Everyone is overwhelmed by the news... the longer it went the more challenging it was going to be for us. To find him safe and well... is just wonderful news."