Colombia: William Suárez, incredible witness to the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano
“I don’t believe it”: William Suárez still remembers the horror of the 1985 Nevado del Ruiz eruption, which killed 25,000 people in western Colombia. But, despite the alerts issued by the authorities, he does not believe in any major explosion for years.
Like him, many of the 57,000 residents who live near this volcano in the Andes mountain range refuse to evacuate the area despite requests from authorities and warnings since March, when a daily average of seismic tremors inside the volcano had increased. 50 to 12,000.
“I can’t believe it,” the 73-year-old man with a gray mustache and cap said when asked about the risk of an explosion. He said the volcano, which the ancients called the “sleeping lion”, would not erupt for “about 50 years”.
The farmer of Viejo Rio Claro, a village at the foot of the mountains in Villamaría municipality, one of the high-risk areas, nevertheless knows the destructive potential of this volcano, which ends at an altitude of about 5,400 meters. ,
Recalls about the night of November 13, 1985, when an avalanche of mud and ash hit the slopes of Nevada del Ruiz, “we could see it spitting a lot of fire, a color like brick, and the earth was shaking.” could”. “He took the transformer and people started screaming and running in the street,” he told AFP.
– “pieces of hands” –
The next day, “there were pieces of arms, hands, half bodies, severed heads,” said the man next to a small church that remained intact. The tragedy ravaged the neighboring city of Armero and caused a total of 25,000 deaths and nearly the same number of casualties.
The face of Omayra Sanchez, the 13-year-old girl who died in front of cameras around the world after three days of agony at a watering hole, has become a symbol of tragedy.
It is considered the worst natural disaster in Colombian history and one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century.
Ten years ago, the volcano, located on the border of the departments of Tolima and Caldas, erupted again, but with an activity that was limited to sporadic ash projections.
Today, their status is “a patient in intensive care who remains relatively stable, but is not ready to move to intermediate care” or may be ready to move out, said Manizales city technical manager of the Volcanic Observatory and Seismology. Lina portrays Castaño. Near the volcano.
“The danger is lurking (…) We must not lower our guard,” warns Félix Garalado, head of risk management of the Caldas department. “The situation has become normal for the people and as a state we do not want that. We visit them so that they understand the danger exists,” he explains.
Meanwhile, William Suarez continues to calmly survey the steep paths of his village.