omayra sanchez

Article

August 19, 2022

Omayra Sánchez Garzón (August 28, 1972 – November 16, 1985) was a 13-year-old Colombian girl killed in Armero, Tolima, by the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in 1985. mixed with ice to form lahars (massive mud flows, landslides and volcanically induced debris flows), which invaded the river valleys below the mountain, killing more than 25,000 people and destroying Armero and 13 other villages. After a lahar demolished her home, Sánchez was trapped under the rubble of her home and remained in the water for three days. Her situation was documented as she went from calm to agony. Her courage and dignity touched journalists and aid workers, who went to great lengths to comfort her. After 60 hours of fighting, she died, likely as a result of gangrene or hypothermia. Her death highlighted the authorities' failure to properly respond to the volcano's threat, in contrast to the efforts of volunteer rescuers to reach and treat trapped victims despite inadequate supplies and equipment. A photograph of Sánchez taken by photojournalist Frank Fournier shortly before her death was published in media outlets around the world. She was subsequently named World Press Photo of the Year in 1986. Sánchez has remained an enduring figure in popular culture, remembered through music, literature, and commemorative articles.

Context

On November 13, 1985, the Nevado del Ruiz volcano erupted. At 9:09 pm that night, pyroclastic flows exploding from the crater melted the mountain's ice cap, forming lahars (flows of volcanic mud and debris flows) that cascaded into the river valleys below. A lahar, consisting of three waves, did most of the damage. Traveling at 6 meters per second, the first wave engulfed most of the city of Armero, killing up to 20,000 people; the last two waves weakened the buildings. Another lahar killed 1,800 people near Chinchiná. In total, around 23,000 people were killed and 13 villages, in addition to Armero, were destroyed. The loss of life was exacerbated by the authorities' failure to take costly preventive measures in the absence of clear signs of imminent danger. There had been no substantial eruption of the volcano since 1845, which contributed to the government's complacency; locals called the volcano the "Sleeping Lion." In September 1985, when earthquakes and phreatic eruptions shook the area around the volcano, authorities began planning an evacuation. A hazard map was prepared in October; he highlighted the danger of ash and rockfall near Murillo, Santa Isabel and Lebanon, as well as the threat of lahars in Mariquita, Guayabal, Chinchiná and Armero. The map was poorly distributed to those most at risk: many survivors had never heard of it, although several major newspapers published it. Henry Villegas of the Colombian Institute of Mining and Geology stated that the maps clearly demonstrated that Armero would be affected by the lahars, but "met strong opposition from economic interests. He said the short time between map preparation and the eruption made it difficult to timely distribution. The Colombian Congress criticized scientific and civil defense agencies for being "alarmists" and the government and army were concerned about the guerrilla campaign in Bogotá, the national capital, which was at its height at the time. deaths increased due to lack of early warning, reckless use of land as villages were built on the most likely path of the lahars, and lack of preparedness in communities near the volcano. Colombia's worst natural disaster, the tragedy of Armero (as it came to be known) was the second