When the Turrialba volcano suddenly came back to life in a cataclysmic eruption on March 12, our Costa Rican based disaster response team immediately reached out to Costa Rica's Animal Health Department to determine how animals were affected and their immediate needs. We were relieved to learn that civil defence are working to get cattle and other animals evacuated from the danger zone.
One of the many animals affected by ash falls following the most recent eruption
Turriabla is surrounded by farming communities, including one of the country’s most important dairy farmers. The eruption was so great, ash falls reached the capital San Jose, potentially affecting pets as well.
We have a long history with this volcano and, since 2007 have conducted trainings and drills with the Costa Rican Animal Health Department (SENASA), Societies for the Protection of Animals, local emergency committees, the Red Cross and the National Police. We have also included the the Veterinary Emergency Response Unit (VERU) in this activities - emergency reserve teams of vets we have sponsored and trained specifically to act quickly to address animal needs in disasters.
We believe preparedness across all responders is critical to reducing casualties and animal deaths. By taking care of the animals, we protect farmers as well who more willingly evacuate as well as ensure their livelihoods can continue once the disaster has passed.
We were very pleased to see that as a result of the 2009 risk reduction programme we initiated specifically for the communities surrounding Turriabla, not a single animal was lost when it erupted the following year.
The preparations are key to survival for animals in the area. But, perhaps the biggest impact will be made possible by the activation of the new national Animal Health Department emergency veterinary fund (that we helped create for the past three years) to cope with the volcano and recent flooding in the same area. As a result SENASA and the Civil Defense department have a streamlined, coordinated ability to respond with rapid access to funds to respond to emergencies. This will enable animals to get immediate help when they need it the most.
We will keep you posted on developments but are confident with the years of work in the area, the animals have a very good chance of surviving and local communities can resume their regular lives as soon as the eruptions and ash falls cease.