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Spain baffled as mysterious team rescues stranded dogs from no-go volcano danger zone

Thermal and optical images of dogs spotted by drone in the town of Todoque, which has been cut off by lava flows. (Photograph: The Guardian)

Entire Spain is puzzled as a mysterious gang calling itself the A-Team has retrieved a group of stranded dogs in the dangerous volcanic eruption area on the Canary island of La Palma even as the authorities were planning a long-drawn rescue operation using drones to get the starving animals to safety.

The eruption – which began on 19 September  has destroyed more than 2,000 properties, forced the evacuation of more than 7,500 people, and devastated La Palma’s banana plantations.

According to a report in The Guardian, it had also left some dogs in the town of Todoque stranded by lava flows. A team of specialists from the Aerocamaras drone company arrived on the island last week and began preparing an unprecedented search and rescue operation whereby drones would be used to drop food and then, once the dogs had got used to the presence of the unmanned craft, airlift them to safety.

But the first drone search on Wednesday, which included two thermal cameras, revealed no sign of the animals. It did, however, turn up some human footprints.

On Thursday a video appeared online showing a banner, placed in the water container where the dogs were last seen, which read: “Stay strong La Palma! The dogs are fine.”

The banner was signed the A-Team. The video also featured photos of a number of dogs.

“We’ve seen the video and we’ve confirmed it’s real, like the footprints we found yesterday,” Jaime Pereira, the chief executive of Aerocamaras, told reporters on the island on Thursday. “The main thing is that, one way or another, the dogs have got out.”

The members of the A-Team appear to have opted for anonymity to avoid any possible punishment for venturing into the exclusion zone to rescue the dogs.

A source from the local media outlet that published the video, Palmerus.es, told the Spanish daily El País the animals were fine. For the time being it would be difficult to explain exactly what had happened given it is illegal to set foot in the exclusion zone.”

The eruptions are still continuing and about 500 people were evacuated from their homes on Wednesday night.