Volcanic Eruption Leaves Dogs Stranded and Hungry

As communities pick themselves up from a series of volcanic eruptions in southern Chile, stories of heartbreak and happy reunions emerge.

Satellite imagery of Calbuco erupting. Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Satellite imagery of Calbuco erupting. Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Last week, glacier-covered Calbuco erupted three times, displacing thousands of local residents and animals. The eruptions sent ash 20 kilometers into the air, according to the BBC,  and triggered a series of mudslides, which followed the melting of glaciers and recent rainfall in the region.

Hundreds of families were forced to leave behind their pets and efforts have since been launched to rescue lost animal companions. Many zones were deemed unsafe and families were unable to return, but in some cases, there have been happy reunions.

“Our government’s commitment is not only to be concerned, but to actively meet the needs [of communities], so that they can return and resume normal life as soon as possible,” Chile’s president Michele Bachelet said at a press event.

Some families are gradually returning to their towns to inspect the damage and see if anything can be salvaged. Residents are documenting their experiences on video and social media.

One such video, shot in Ensenada by Claudio Domingo Hernandez Matamala and viewed more than 200,000 times on Facebook, shows an emotional reunion between one abandoned pet and his worried owners. The dog sustained some minor burns on his back but was otherwise alive and well.

Watch the reunion here:

Other reports haven’t been as joyous. Feral dogs attacked and killed five sheep evacuated from exclusion zones surrounding the Calbuco volcano.

The local government has taken measures to protect animals and keep them in trailers away from dangerous dogs, but many animals are still stranded near volcanic activity. Officials say they are uncertain about how much livestock has died from inhaling volcanic ash, though reports suggest some have died from contaminated water.

But not all dogs have taken to attacking livestock in their hunger. One dog, now nicknamed “Ceniza” or “ash,” was adopted by the military after contributing to rescue efforts. Ceniza boosts the moral of troops as they work to rebuild communities.

Meanwhile, locals are scrambling to clean out the ash that covers their towns. There are concerns that the ash will hurt crops and take a toll on residents’ livelihoods.

“Now we have to think about the future,” Piedro Gonzáles, a resident of Ensenada, told Agence France-Presse. “We hope that in two months Ensenada can returnto normal. But it depends on whether the volcano can leave us alone.”



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