Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Omayra Sánchez (Colombia)

Omayra Sánchez was one of the 25,000 victims of the Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia) volcano which erupted on November 14, 1985. The 13-year old had been trapped in water and concrete for 3 days. The picture was taken shortly before she died and it caused controversy due to the photographer’s work and the Colombian government’s inaction in the midst of the tragedy, when it was published worldwide after the young girl’s death.

Omayra was trapped up to her neck in water, concrete, and other debris for three days before she succumbed to gangrene and hypothermia. During three nights of agony, Omayra seemed strong but was suffering. According to Cristina Echandia, a journalist who kept records of the events, Omayra sang and had normal conversations with the people who were trying to help her. The little girl was thirsty and scared. On the third night, Omayra began hallucinating, saying that she did not want to be late for school. At some point she asked the people to leave her so they could rest.

Television coverage of the disaster introduced her to the world when she was still alive. The photo shown here was taken hours before her death and published after her death.

The volcano is still active, according to the Volcano Watch Center in Colombia. However, at this point no other city or town remains close enough to be seriously affected in the event of an eruption. The only city, Armero, no longer exists and was turned into a memorial of the disaster where only crosses can be seen.

Omayra Sanchez herself remains in the memory of those who followed her suffering and tragic death. Some local newspapers commemorated both the 20 years of the volcanic eruption as well as Omayra's death, and her case was also mentioned in TV and radio commemorations. Nonetheless, no specific monument has been created in her name as of yet.

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