In 1985, a still very undeveloped Colombia experienced an eruption of the Nevado Del Ruiz volcano. In its aftermath, there were tragedies that highlighted the governments lack of preparedness and inability to deal with a disaster of this nature in an effective manner. The government sited shortages of some of the most basic supplies: shovels, cutting tools, stretchers, etc. Omayra Sanchez was a 13-year-old girl whose lower half was pinned under debris and submerged in sludge and water. She had stopped her own retreat to attempt to rescue a sibling. Workers were unable to pull her free. She survived for 60 hours in this position displaying tremendous courage and dignity before she succumbed to gangrene and hypothermia. This controversial photo was taken by Frank Fournier shortly before she died. To save Omayra, workers would have needed a pump to remove the water and gain visibility and access to the debris trapping her. It is reported that 2 hours before her death…a broken pump arrived.
UML salutes Omayra’s strength, courage, and dignity.
- The 25th Anniversary of the Nevado del Ruiz tragedy (bigthink.com)