On November 13, 1985, the volcano Nevado del Ruiz erupted near the Colombian city of Armero. Lava flows from the crater hit the mountain glacier, from the instantly melted ice and volcanic ash, mud flows were formed, which rushed cascades down into the river valleys. Moving at high speed (6 meters per second), the first wave captured most of the city of Armero, which was on the way.
On the night of the disaster, 13-year-old Omaira Sanchez and her family were awakened by the sound of an approaching mud stream. In the blink of an eye, Omaira found herself under the rubble in her own house. For a long time, the girl could not be found, since she could not be seen from above because of the concrete floor slabs. When they reached Omaira, the rescuers managed to move the slabs away, but could not free them from the wreckage.
The child was fed, even put on a drip. To save Omaira, a powerful pump was needed to pump out the water, in order for a crane to push the wreckage of the house apart without drowning the child. Rescuers brought the pump from Bogota to Armero in a special helicopter, but all efforts to wrest Omaira out of this hellish trap were unsuccessful - the pump turned out to be faulty, and there was practically no time left.
The girl was dying in front of the rescuers. The adults were shocked by her calmness. She knew that under her feet were the bodies of relatives killed by the mudflow. The struggle for Omaira's life lasted 60 hours, and all this time she did not lose her presence of mind. Noticing that the rescuers were tired, the girl suggested: "Go and rest, I will bear it." For three nights Omaira stood in the water, on the fourth day she died without waiting for salvation ...
Naturally, the rescue operation was attended by journalists from many countries, one of them - Frenchman Frank Fournier and took pictures of little Omaira shortly before his death. His photograph, which was called "The Agony of Omaira Sánchez, " spread throughout the world, causing a controversial reaction in society. Fournier was called a "vulture", to which he objected, stating:
I felt that this story was important for my reporting, and I am very happy that there is such a reaction, it would be worse if people did not worry about it ... I believe that the photographs helped to raise money from all over the world to help and helped show the irresponsibility and lack of courage of the country's leaders.
The scandalous photo was later recognized as a 1985 photograph by World Press Photo.
A video of communication with the rescuers, where Omaira smiled, was circulated in all the media. Rescuers and humanitarian workers who gathered to support and pray for her spoke of her "courage and dignity".
As a result of the tragedy, due to mudflows and untimely assistance, about 23, 000 people died and 14 towns and villages were destroyed. In the wake of Omaira's death and the upheaval in the press, the blame for the Armero tragedy was blamed on the Colombian government, carried away by the civil war, which was inactive and ignored reports of an impending volcanic eruption. The city of Almero no longer exists; in its place is a memorial to the disaster. There is a small monument to Omaira