The Armero Mudslide Tragedy
The Nevado Del Ruiz volcano in Colombia stood at the height of 17,500 feet above sea level. It had shown signs of activity since the 1840s. In September 1985, tremors from the volcano began to become more frequent and powerful.
Residents in towns near the volcano, such as Armero, started to panic. As fate would have it, the volcano erupted on 13th November of the same year.
The explosion was small, but brought with it mass destruction and claimed hundreds of lives. The eruption triggered a mudflow that runs at speeds of roughly 25 mph.
It reached Armero, covering 90% of the town in heavy sludge. Mudflows destroyed the roadways, houses, and bridges of the city.
Most residents of the town were trapped in the mudslide and unable to flee. A few lucky, about a fifth of the population survived, suffering injuries.
As many as 25,000 people lost their lives. The most devastating and horrifying death accounted for in the tragedy is that of Omarya Sanchez. The little girl endured a long and terrifying death, trapped in the mud for days.
The Tragic Death Of Omayra Sánchez
After the mudslide raked havoc in Armero, 13-year-old Omarya Sanchez found herself trapped in the landslide. She was buried in a heap of debris and neck-deep water.
Her story was best documented by French photojournalist Frank Fournier, who stayed by her side till she breathed her last.
He captured her horrifying ordeal in real-time. Frank arrived in Bogota two days after the explosion.
His journey to Armero was long and tedious, but what waited ahead was far much worse.
He had planned to capture the rescue operations on the ground, but he got more than he had bargained.
His account of Omayra Sanchez’s death and pictures of her last moments would later bag him awards and bring International backlash.
Arriving at Armero, Frank found the situation on the ground far worse than he had imagined.