Drones drop food parcels to ash-covered dogs trapped by lava in La Palma

Three abandoned dogs trapped on a tiny island of land spared by lava in La Palma are being kept alive with food deliveries by drone to prevent them from starving to death.

The Cumbre Vieja volcano continues to spew out magma and ash almost four weeks after its initial eruption forced thousands on the Spanish island to abandon their homes and farms as molten lava rolled down the hillside, obliterating the town of Todoque and other neighbourhoods on its path to the sea.

Footage from the drones show the emaciated dogs looking up from the yard on a ridge in Todoque surrounded by lava as their airborne saviour approaches to drop packages of food, which they amble towards and rip open with their teeth.

In a statement, the Island Council of La Palma thanked two local companies for feeding the dogs for the past five days.

The plan is to maintain the deliveries as long as meteorological conditions allow and a rescue operation can be considered. At present, an airlift by helicopter is not possible because the hot air from the lava and the presence of volcanic ash present a danger to rotors.

Hundreds of animals were rescued and placed in shelters and with foster families when close to 6,000 residents had to abandon their homes after the September 19 eruption. This week 800 more people have had to evacuate the area of Los Llanos de Aridane as a new tongue of lava has broadened the affected area.

Close to 1,500 buildings have been destroyed and more than 650 hectares of land covered by lava, which is forming a delta that will change La Palma’s coastline as it makes sea-fall.

The eruption is proving a disaster for La Palma’s banana farmers, a sector that accounts for half of the island’s economic output.

Coarse black volcanic ash is damaging the crop, scratching the outer skin and making the fruit unfit for sale.

“It is not just the Aridane valley because the wind changes direction and ash is blown all over so 100 per cent of the island is affected," said Juan Vicente Rodriguez Leal, head of the Covalle agricultural cooperative, estimating losses of between 120 and 130 million euros.

“European quality regulations ban the sale of bananas with more than four square centimetres of scratches per fruit, even if they are perfect inside and can be eaten without risk," said Esther Dominguez of ASPROCAN, which represents banana producers in the Canary Islands.

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