I had not really internalized the scope of the tragedy that occurred during the night in November 1985, when the volcano Nevada del Ruiz erupted and caused massive and fast-moving mud slides into 6 drainage areas. The best known of these was the tragedy that befell the municipality of Armero, Tolima, Colombia where 25,000 of the 40,000 inhabitants perished in a few hours. Those who were not buried suffered from acid burns since the mud mixture contained high amounts of sulphur. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armero_tragedy.
This monument gives one a sense of what lies below. The mud zone has reverted to bush over the years, but the bush is littered with grave markers where families died.
The building you see in the photo was actually the 4th floor of the hospital.
This rock had been a well-known fixture in a stream 14 km upstream from where it landed.
While there were warning signs that the volcano was about to erupt, there was a simultaneous distraction occurring in Bogota which paralyzed the national government. This Bogota event was the takeover of the Supreme Court (Palacio de Justicia) by the armed group M-19. The outpouring of foreign assistance to help Armero survivors was truly impressive and components of that assistance still are in evidence in the region today.
Many survivors ended up in a neighbouring town called Armero Guayabal but the tragedy lives on in their hearts and continues to shape the tourism industry in the region.