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Rescuers fail to rescue child before she dies

By
PATRICIA WALSH

ARMERO, Colombia -- A 12-year-old girl trapped three days in chest-deep mud after a devastating volcanic eruption that killed more than 22,300 people died Saturday, cradled in the arms of relatives and calling for her mother.

The ordeal of Omayra Sanchez captured the hearts of Colombians, who awoke Saturday morning to see photographs on the front pages of their newspapers showing the youngster, baking under an intensely hot sun, lying in fetid mud.

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'She died about 10 this morning,' said Red Cross worker Jairo Mora. 'We were with her for two days. Last night, we took shifts taking out water with pots.

'We even gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,' he said. 'We did everything humanly possible.'

Relatives cradled the girl in their arms as she died about 10 a.m., deliriously calling for her mother, who lived in Bogota, Mora said.

Hundreds of people traveled to Armero, searching for relatives. Some of them vowed to stay until they found them, even though there was little hope that more than a few thousand more bodies could be rescued from the buried town.

Three days after the Nevado del Ruiz volcano erupted, at least 100 people remained trapped in mud as rescuers struggled to reach them.

At least 22,341 people were killed when the volcano erupted late Wednesday, triggering an avalanche of snow and ice, officials said. At least 20,000 people died in Armero and hundreds died in the towns of Chinchina, Guayabal and Lerida.

The rescue effort continued Saturday, but some volunteers complained about a lack of organization and trained rescuers.

Rescue suppliesand specialized tools were scarce and difficulties in reaching the area prevented more volunteers from joining the efforts. Helicopters landed in nearby Guayabal, carrying exhausted and dehydrated survivors plucked from the mud.

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