On November 13, 1985, the Nevado del Ruiz — a highly active volcano in Colombia — erupted, melting glaciers and sending torrents of mud and detritus into the villages at its base. Thirteen-year-old Omayra Sánchez, along with her family, was trembling in her home as one of these torrents, called a lahar, literally wiped their town of Armero from the map. Buried beneath the roof of her home, Sánchez yelled for aid workers to free her from the muck. And they tried. But, unbeknownst to workers, Sánchez’s legs were pinned beneath a brick door and being clutched tightly by one of her fallen family members. There was no way to save Sánchez’s life in the aftermath of the 1985 Nevado del Ruiz eruption.
Lucid for nearly 60 hours after the quake, Sánchez chatted and joked with workers as they tried to save her life. As the exposure began to overtake the young girl, and the reality she wasn't going to survive soon set in, Sánchez told her mother goodbye and asked workers to let her rest. Frank Fournier, a French photographer, captured Omayra Sánchez’s last moments in a haunting photograph. Her eyes red, her hands white, in the photo, Sánchez issues a haunting call to the world for a help that would never come. Fournier won the 1986 World Press Photo of the Year for the image.
Omayra's Legs Were Trapped, Which Prevented Aid Workers From Rescuing Her
As Gangrene And Hypothermia Overtook Her Body, Omayra Told Her Mother GoodbyeVideo: YouTube
She Became An International Symbol Of The 23,000 Who Lost Their Lives In The Tragedy
Frank Fournier’s Award-Winning Photograph Also Sparked A Worldwide DebatePhoto: Jeffrey Marso / Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain