Rescue from Chaiten
After a tumultuous two-week deployment to the area affected by a recent volcanic eruption in Chile, the HSI/HSUS animal rescue team is on their way home. The Chaitén volcano, silent for 9,000 years, started spewing ash on May 2nd, forcing local residents to leave the area. The evacuation forced residents to leave behind thousands of pets and farm animals to fend for themselves.
Although this trip proved to be an arduous one' in difficult working conditions, with supplies lacking' our team was able to bring relief to animals caught in the path of the volcano. We had invaluable assistance from many local volunteers and animal protection organizations, including Rescate y ProtecciÃ³n Animal (REYPA), Albergando a Un Amigo (AUA), and the Coalition for the Ethical Control of Urban Animals (CEFU).
A key element in our response was setting up a much-needed temporary animal shelter. While the military continued evacuating animals from Chaitén, our team got to work constructing a temporary shelter for animals coming from the disaster zone. Military personnel were able to bring 100 rescued dogs to the facility, where they began a life-changing journey.
The 100 dogs were in surprisingly good physical condition, but were mentally stressed, making some hard to handle. They seemed to know that they were lucky to be alive; they would not have survived unaided in the deserted city.
Out of the Ashes; Onto the Road
Once the dogs were out of immediate danger, the team's next task was the daunting transport of the animals to a veterinary school in Puerto Montt. Normally, this would be a short trip, but severe weather and multiple landslides made the roads nearly impassable. Despite the difficulties, our team pressed on, since this was the only route to safety for these animals.
After scouring the region for crates and other hard-to-find supplies, the team loaded most of the dogs onto two trucks for the journey. Fortunately, they made it safely to Puerto Montt after a harrowing two days. The military is still bringing animals out from among the ashes, and those animals will follow the same route as this first transport.
Once Lost, Now Found
The dogs brought to Puerto Montt were met by evacuees from Chaitén eager to be reunited with the pets they had been forced to leave behind. Many families who had traveled to the veterinary school to search for their animals cried tears of joy when they were finally reunited with their beloved companions. Those dogs not immediately identified will be housed at the veterinary school or kept in foster homes until they are claimed by their guardians or put up for adoption.
Although the on-the-ground part of this mission has come to an end, we are providing funds to local groups to continue the work that our disaster team started. We will stay in close contact with them and continue to provide assistance as necessary.