Wednesday, October 27

The slow agony of Omayra: the girl who asked for calm after the eruption of Nevado Ruiz


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Trapped between the ruins of her own demolished house and the mud that had formed with the remains of lava and ash from the Colombian volcano Nevado Ruiz. This is how Omayra Sánchez was on November 16, 1985, with the meltwater caused by the eruption around her neck, while different channels broadcast her last hours of life live. She was even interviewed by Televisión Española. It was overwhelming to see a 13-year-old girl giving encouragement and affection to the teams trying to rescue her: “Go rest for a while and then they take me out.”

Little Omayra became the most famous victim of the 25,000 that caused that eruption that began on November 13, 1985 at 9 p.m. The volcano in central Colombia vomited 35 million tons of materials and caused the snow of this 5,400-meter-high giant to melt. This generated four tributaries of lava, water and ice that descended down the slope at 60 kilometers per hour until they emptied into the rivers that drained the volcano. As a consequence, the flows increased by four and destroyed nearby towns such as Armero.

In this municipality, Omayra was dying for almost three days, with her body immobilized among the expelled materials, before the flashes of the photographers and the gazes of the journalists. The rescue teams worked day and night, while she tried to explain: “I touch my aunt’s head with my feet on the bottom”, “I want you to help my mother, because she is going to be left alone” and “I’m afraid that the water rises and I drown, I can’t swim, ”he commented, among other things.

At 10 am on Saturday 16, they verified that the option of amputating his legs was impossible, since they did not have the necessary surgical material to survive. They made a last attempt to suck up the mud that did not stop growing due to the effects of the eruption with a motor pump, but there was no luck either. All efforts were in vain, despite the optimism shown by Omayra during the first two days. He even sang a song to one of the journalists, asked for sweet food, drank soda and agreed to do the interview: “Mom, if you listen to me, pray for me that everything goes well,” he asked.

On the third night she began to have hallucinations and to talk about school: “I’m worried, today was the math test.” At the beginning of the third day, his eyes turned red, his face puffed up, and his hands went pale. Shortly before the end, she asked to be allowed to rest. She was out of strength and the doctors present agreed that letting her die was the most humane option. About 60 hours after being trapped, just at 10:05 a.m. on November 16, she closed her eyes forever. There was talk of gangrene or hypothermia, but the specific causes could never be clarified due to the impossibility of performing an autopsy. It’s not fair, God! After all we have fought and what she has endured! ”, One of the doctors present shouted.

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