Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia sisters reunited 30 years after avalanche

Media captionThe sisters were rescued from the volcano eruption - but each thought the other was dead

Two sisters in Colombia separated when they were children after an avalanche destroyed their town have been reunited 30 years later.

Jaqueline and Lorena Sanchez were separated in 1985 when a volcano near their town of Armero, in Tolima Department, erupted.

It triggered an avalanche which killed at least 20,000 people in the town.

The two sisters were adopted by separate families and never knew each other's fate.

They spent years looking for each other.

"It was beautiful and sad because it's been 30 years since the tragedy happened that I've come to find out what happened to my sister," Lorena Sanchez said.

"So I have to catch up with 30 years of her life and she has to do the same with me."

The two sisters found each other after DNA tests, a social media campaign and with help from the Armando Armero foundation set up to help victims of the disaster in Armero in the department of Tolima.

Jaqueline saw a video on social media of her sister Lorena making an appeal for information on surviving family members.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Nevado del Ruiz volcano erupted, melting its snowcap and causing a deadly landslide that killed more than 20,000 people

"I'm excited, nervous, everything because suddenly, you don't know if you are going to be rejected or something," Jaqueline said.

"It's something that you find within this: joy, I wonder if she will love me. It's difficult. It's difficult to explain this moment."

The foundation organised DNA tests for the women and a positive match was identified.

Despite public appeals, the two women have not been able to find their parents.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Three decades on, the sisters each have their own children

The volcano erupted on 13 November, 1985.

As pyroclastic flows erupted from the volcano's crater, they melted the mountain's glaciers, sending four enormous mud slides down its slopes.

They engulfed the town of Armero, killing more than 20,000 of its almost 29,000 inhabitants.

It was the second most deadly volcanic disaster of the 20th century, surpassed only by the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelee in the Caribbean.

Armero was the fourth most deadly volcanic event recorded since the year 1500.

More on this story