La Palma: Volcano erupts and lava flows on Spanish island

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Since the start of the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on 19 September, people and their pets have been evacuated from the ever-growing danger zone. However, after the entire neighbourhood of Todoque disappeared from the map under lava and ash, authorities who use drones to monitor the situation realised a number of dogs were trapped on a small patch of land with no possibility of moving away without getting hurt.

Local companies Volcanic Life and Ticom Soluciones SL fed the animals using drones for several days while concocting a plan to rescue the stranded pups.

Drones are the only viable way for a possible rescue as the use of helicopters is unfeasible due to the materials (ash, pyroclasts) released by the volcano.

A team from drone company Aerocámaras had even been planning to send a 50kg cargo drone with a remote-controlled net to try and trap the dogs one by one and fly them out over the lava.

But according to Jaime Pereira, CEO of Aerocámaras, the dogs disappeared from all radars on Wednesday.

“By yesterday we couldn’t see anything,” he told Spanish newspaper El País.

“But we wanted to be sure.

“We have been checking the images today and we have confirmed with the authorities that there are tracks where the dogs were, so we know that they have been there.

“There is a video of the sign that was taken several days ago.”

The sign Mr Pereira mentions is a white banner detected by regular drones flying the area that says “Be strong La Palma, the dogs are fine” and is signed by a mysterious “A Team.”

“The banner is really there, only overturned by the wind, and we saw human footprints, so we understand the dogs had been gone for some days,” said Mr Pereira.

“We knew something weird was going on as we checked all the areas where they could have been hiding and discovered nothing.

“Now we only want to see the dogs, to verify that they are well and the same ones we’ve been looking for.”

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Animal advocacy group Leales, who previously asked the drone company to use large cargo drones to fetch the dogs, said on Thursday that “anonymous animalists” seem to have entered the area and rescued the dogs, citing a video it had received by email.

Footage in the anonymous video was shot by a drone.

Leales said it suspects that the unknown rescuers might have used a drone’s thermal imaging to determine a relatively “cold” path through the lava field.

Leales said the video arrived via a brief email that was also signed by the A Team.

The message thanked the group for its work and concluded with the hashtag many locals in La Palma have embraced: #masfuertesqueelvolcan — stronger than the volcano.

If people have in fact travelled to the area to collect the dogs, whose owners have still not come forward, they would have been violating the exclusion zone established by the authorities in the areas affected by the volcano.

A source from the local media outlet that also published the video, Palmerus.es, told El País that the animals are now fine and that “no one would risk their lives for the dogs only to then mistreat them later.”

For now, the source continued, it will be difficult for someone to clarify how it happened given that “it was illegal” to enter the exclusion zone.

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