Epic mission to rescue emaciated dogs trapped by volcano lava

·3-min read

A rescue mission is underway to save several emaciated dogs trapped near Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands.

The dogs have been stranded for weeks in an abandoned yard covered with volcanic ash on the island of La Palma.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted for the first time in 50 years on September 19 and has been flowing lava for more than four weeks, the BBC reports.

The trapped dogs were first spotted on October 7 in the village of Todoque, the island’s governing council, Cabildo de La Palma, said on its website.

Dogs are seen on the ash-covered earth surrounded by volcanic lava.
Dogs are seen on the ash-covered earth surrounded by volcanic lava following an eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano. Source: Cabildo de La Palma

There are conflicting reports on the number of dogs, with local media saying four but Reuters claiming there are three dogs.

Volcanic Life and Ticom Soluciones SL have been delivering food and water to the animals using drones since they were found, but until now no one has been able to figure out how to rescue them.

Helicopters are banned from flying to the area because hot gas can damage their rotors.

This week, Spanish drone operator Aerocamaras was granted permission to try to rescue the dogs by catching them with a remote-controlled net and flying them out over the flowing lava.

After evaluating the proposed rescue mission, emergency authorities said in a statement they had decided to allow it.

Jaime Pereira, CEO of drone operator Aerocamaras, said he plans to send a 50 kg drone equipped with a wide net to try to trap the dogs, one by one, and fly them to safety, 450 metres away.

General view of ash-covered earth surrounded by volcanic lava following an eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano. Source: Cabildo de La Palma
Ash surrounded by volcanic lava following an eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano. Source: Cabildo de La Palma

"It's the first time an animal is being rescued with a drone and the first time it has to be captured," Mr Pereira told Reuters.

"If that's the last option that the dogs have? Then we're going after them."

The operator will have just four minutes to lure a dog to the net, and another four minutes to fly it out.

"What we don't want is to run out of battery when flying over the lava," Mr Pereira said.

Test flights are still being carried out.

View of Cumbre Vieja volcano as seen from El Paso village in La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. Source: AAP
The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted for the first time in 50 years on September 19, BBC reports. Source: AAP

Reconnaissance flights fail to find dogs

On Thursday, Aerocamaras said on Facebook employees had spent several hours conducting multiple reconnaissance flights over the area the dogs were seen but didn’t locate them.

There are concerns they may have moved due to increasing temperatures.

The drones did see several containers of water in the area, ensuring the dogs have supplies for now.

More drones will join the search on Friday.

Mr Pereira said the mission depends on how the dogs will respond to the machine.

“They've been eating very little for weeks. They might come, or become scared of the drone. We really depend on their reaction."

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