Who let the dogs out? Mystery disappearance grips Spain as La Palma volcano rages on

For days, Spain was gripped by the drama of four hungry dogs trapped by an erupting volcano as daring plans were made to rescue them by drone.

Who let the dogs out? Mystery disappearance grips Spain as La Palma volcano rages on
A collection of images which tell the story: top left is a drone shot of one of the trapped dogs, top right is a screenshot of the mysterious message which reads "The dogs are fine, A Team," and at the bottom is an image of the Cumbre Vieja volcano which is a destroying everything in its path a month after eruptions started (Jorge Guerrero/AFP).

Then suddenly they disappeared, with only a mysterious note left at the scene saying that the hounds were safe.

Footage of the dogs stranded inside two empty water tanks cut off by surrounding flows of red-hot lava on La Palma in the Canary Islands was first released by animal charity, sparking a public outcry for their rescue.

But as plans took shape for a complex and unprecedented rescue by drone, everyone was caught short by their disappearance following an apparent overnight rescue operation.

The four emaciated dogs, all a local hunting breed known as Podenco Canario, were trapped in Todoque which has been swamped by lava since the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on September 19th.

Although several pockets of land have remained untouched by lava, they were still inaccessible on foot or by helicopter, over fears the ash and hot gas would damage the rotors.

Despite a ban on transporting animals by drone, local officials approved a rescue operation by industrial drone operator Aerocameras involving a 50-kilogramme (110-pound) device fitted with a large semi-rigid net.

But when their drones flew over the site on Thursday, the dogs had vanished.

“After carrying out an exhaustive inspection of the exclusion zone where the dogs were supposed to be, our drones have found no trace of them,” Aerocameras tweeted on Friday, confirming it was abandoning the mission.

drone shot trapped dogs la palma spain
€15,000 ($17,500) in donations had been raised to save the four dogs. Photo: La Palma Cabildo

The podencos’ plight

Left at one of the enclaves was a large white sheet scrawled with the words: “Be strong, La Palma. The dogs are fine. The A-Team” in reference to a popular 1980s American TV series involving daring stunts.

So far, nobody knows who sprung the dogs, nor how they did it.

Aerocamera’s drones had on Thursday spotted footprints “that appear to have been made by people inside the exclusion zone,” despite the area’s inaccessibility and a ban on entering it.

While some believe it was the work of animal rights activists, others — including — believe the audacious rescue may have been staged by the dogs’ owner or someone close to him.

But neither theory was confirmed by the police or local authorities, who did not say whether an investigation had been opened, and the case continued to make waves on social media on Friday.

Since the podencos’ plight became public, has received more than €15,000 ($17,500) in donations to help them.

It has been more than a month since Cumbre Vieja began erupting, forcing more than 6,000 people out of their homes as the lava burnt its way across huge swathes of land on the western side of La Palma.

Although no one has died or been hurt, the volcano has caused huge damage, with the molten rock covering over 2,200 acres (890 hectares) of land and destroying more than 2,100 properties.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


3,000 people in Spain’s La Palma forced indoors as lava reaches sea

Around 3,000 people were ordered to remain indoors on the Canary island of La Palma on Monday as lava from an erupting volcano reached the sea, risking the release of toxic gas.

3,000 people in Spain's La Palma forced indoors as lava reaches sea
The lava flow produced by the Cumbre Vieja volcano has reached the sea before. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

The Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (Pevolca) “ordered the confinement” of residents of coastal towns and villages near where the lava cascaded into the sea, sending large plumes of white smoke into the air, local emergency services said on Twitter.

The order was given due to “the possible release of gases that are harmful to health,” it added.

The order affects “around 3,000” people on the island, Miguel Angel Morcuende, technical director of Pevolca, told a news conference.

This is the third time that a lava flow has reached the Atlantic Ocean since the Cumbre Vieja volcano in the south of the island erupted on September 19th, covering large areas with ash.

All flights to and from La Palma’s airport were cancelled on Monday because of the ash, the third straight day that air travel has been disrupted.

And for the first time since the eruption started, local authorities advised residents of La Palma’s capital, Santa Cruz de La Palma in the east, to use high-filtration FFP2 face masks to protect themselves from emissions of dioxide and sulphur.

Most of the island, which is home to around 85,000 people, is so far unaffected by the eruption.

But parts of the western side where lava flows have slowly made their way to the sea face an uncertain future.

The molten rock has covered 1,065 hectares (2,630 acres) and destroyed nearly 1,500 buildings, according to Copernicus, the European Union’s satellite monitoring service.

Lava has destroyed schools, churches, health centres and irrigation infrastructure for the island’s banana plantations — a key source of jobs — as well as hundreds of homes.

Provisional damage was estimated on Friday at nearly €900 million ($1 billion), according to the regional government.

The island of La Palma, part of the Canary Islands archipelago off northwestern Africa, is experiencing its third eruption in a century, with
previous ones in 1949 and 1971.