Drones attempting to rescue three dogs trapped near an erupting volcano have found no sign of the animals – but have discovered human footprints in the no-go area and a message saying: “The dogs are fine”.
The Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma has been spewing lava and ash since 19 September, with it still showing no signs of stopping.
The eruption has caused thousands of people to be evacuated from their homes, destroyed buildings and forced some areas to become no-access zones.
Following the devastation, drones captured images of emaciated dogs on the island, provoking an outpouring of support from animal lovers across Spain.
Donations and initiatives were set up, and a rescue mission began.
A picture of a banner circulating on social media, saying in Spanish: “Be strong La Palma. The dogs are fine. A-Team”, hinted that the animals may have been moved.
The drone team confirmed they could see part of the message from the skies, along with human footprints.
“The banner is really there, only overturned by the wind, and we saw human footprints, so we understand that the dogs had been gone for some days,” the chief executive of drone operator Aerocamaras, Jaime Pereira said.
Mr Pereira added infrared temperature measurements of the lava surface surrounding the yard, where the animals had been stranded for weeks, showed it had cooled off in some places to 40C-70C (104F-158F).
This means it would be possible for someone to walk to their rescue.
“We knew something weird was going on as we checked all the areas where they could have been hiding and discovered nothing,” he said.
“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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Smaller drones had been delivering packages of food to the dogs, but until now no one had been able to retrieve them.
Aerocamaras has 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.
On Sunday, Canary Island officials said there is no end in sight to the volcanic eruption after 40 tremors struck La Palma in one day.
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