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The Agony Of Omayra Sanchez

Written by: George Chittenden : 04 Jan 2020

This is arguably the toughest image we’ve ever written about. It was taken by a French reporter, Frank Fournier on Nov 16th, 1985 and it eventually won World Press Photo of the Year in 1985. The photo tells the absolutely heart-braking story of Omayra Sánchez, a 13-year-old Colombian girl who became trapped beneath the debris of her house after a volcanic eruption in Columbia. After spending three days trapped, with rescue-workers unable to free her without killing her in the process, she sadly passed away. During the 60 hours of absolute hell her courage and dignity touched the hearts of journalists and relief workers. She sang, gave an interview and even encouraged rescue workers to leave her and return to their families.

Omayra Sánchez

Omayra Sánchez

Omayra Sánchez was one of roughly 23,000 people who died as a result of the 1985 eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano. Many deaths were caused by landslides, with volcanic debris mixing with ice to form massive lahars, which swept through the valleys and destroyed fourteen villages. Omayra’s village, Armero, was one and as her house collapsed she found herself pinned in a kneeling position under a concrete door. The only way to free her would have involved amputating her legs, which would have killed her anyway. This powerful image grabbed the world’s attention and helped Colombia to form an organisation now known as the Directorate for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness. It’s impossible not to salute this little girl’s bravery, an hr story makes us all thankful for what we have.


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