The Word Today (US): Survivors of Nevado de Ruiz volcano reunited

In 1985, Colombians suffered what is considered the fourth-deadliest volcanic disaster in world history.

The Nevado de Ruiz volcano brought devastation when it’s eruption unleashed a wall of mud that buried the town of Armero. More than 30 years later, one family has been reunited.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports.

This week, two biological sisters separated by Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz volcano explosion in 1985 were reunited thanks to DNA testing.

Jenifer de la Rosa was one-week-old when her hometown was buried by a wall of mud from the volcanic eruption.

The Nevado del Ruiz tragedy left an estimated 25 thousand dead from the town of Armero. Many of them disappeared beneath the rubble and mud. In the chaos that ensued, Jenifer was given to the Red Cross and put up for adoption.

“The papers only said that my father had died in the avalanche and my mother had given me to a rescue worker and that is it. To get more information, I needed to be 21 years old,” de la Rosa added.

Jenifer’s journey to get answers led her to the Armando Armero Foundation that has gathered information from 478 people looking for lost children they believed survived and as well as 65 kids who were adopted. Through DNA testing by the Yunis-Turbay Genetic Institute in Bogota, four cases have been solved.

Juan Yunis, director of the Institute said, “We need help from the government to get access to information. Access to those DNA profiles that they might have from Armero [mass graves] to compare with our database.”

Jenifer’s sister Angela Rendon said her adoption papers never mentioned she was from the town of Armero. One of many cases said the Armando Armero Foundation, where the Colombian adoption agency processed adoptions with misinformation, making it harder for family members to find their relatives years later.

Children who were not reunited or claimed by family within six months of the tragedy were considered abandoned– even though many parents were in hospitals recuperating from their injuries.

Maria Gladys Primo was one of those parents in a coma for three months – unable to search for her son and daughter. She said both are still alive. She believes she saw him on television being rescued. She is also one of hundreds that have submitted DNA for testing. Primo said these reunions give her hope for the future. “I think someday I will be sitting there, and feel that joy that my children have returned. I cried for joy for them, I feel that joy that someday I need to be with my children.”

While the newfound sisters begin to build a relationship, their reunion gives hope for many still searching for relatives.

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