100 Rare Historical Photos That You Never Saw Before

#5 – Omayra Sanchez, young victim of the Armero Tragedy in Colombia, 1985

A victim of a Colombian volcano disaster, Omayra Sanchez was trapped in water and concrete for three days. This photo was taken shortly before she died.
A victim of a Colombian volcano disaster, Omayra Sanchez was trapped in water and concrete for three days. This photo was taken shortly before she died.

On November 13, 1985, the Nevado del Ruiz volcano erupted. Pyroclastic flows exploding from the crater melted the mountain’s icecap, forming lahars (volcanic mudflows and debris flows) which cascaded into river valleys below.

Omayra Sánchez was a little 13 year old girl who lived in Armero when the “Nevado del Ruíz” erupted. When the lahar destroyed her house, her father and aunt died inside. She was able to survive the lahar, but when rescue teams tried to help her, they realized that her legs were trapped under her house’s roof. Once the girl was freed from the waist up, her rescuers attempted to pull her out, but found the task impossible without breaking her legs in the process. Rescue workers placed a tire around her body to avoid her to drown. Divers discovered that Sánchez’s legs were caught under a door made of bricks, with her aunt’s body under her feet.

At one point she asked the people to leave her so they could rest. Hours later the workers returned with a pump and tried to save her, but her legs were bent under the concrete as if she was kneeling, and it was impossible to free her without severing her legs. Lacking the surgical equipment to save her from the effects of an amputation, the doctors present agreed that it would be more humane to let her die. In all, Sánchez suffered for nearly three nights (roughly 60 hours) before she died at approximately 10:05 AM on November 16 from exposure, most likely from gangrene or hypothermia. A short video clip here.

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