Icelanders are of course no strangers to volcanic eruptions, since 2021 we have had a small eruption in this region about once a year. These eruptions have been cheekily dubbed “tourist eruptions” as they posed no threat but were – in a way – a welcome aid to draw attention to Iceland and its tourism.
But the townspeople of Grindavík are facing a different situation now. On November 11th 2023 at 11 PM they were awoken with a sudden call for evacuation. Everybody was asked to leave as quickly as possible as a town and life-threatening volcanic eruption might be imminent. This came as a surprise to many since officials had been claiming earlier in the day that there would be plenty of time to evacuate. But things can change rapidly!
The sudden evacuation caused that many animals were left behind. Some cats had run away, some people had no way of transporting animals such as fish, turkeys or hundreds of pigeons… And some townspeople had already left Grindavík before and were now no longer able to go back home to pick up horses, sheep and pets.
The heartbreaking fact was that on the morning of November 12th more than 300 animals were left in Grindavík, awaiting disaster: At least 20 horses, 58 cats, over 100 pigeons, 28 chickens, two rabbits, 2 hamsters, 13 parrots and budgies and some sheep were accounted for to still being in the danger zone.
We can all surely relate to the despair of the owners when – against their earlier expectations-, they were not allowed to go back and rescue their pets the following day when daylight came. The Department of Civil Management and Emergency Planning simply deemed it too dangerous.
In moves Dýrfinna, a group of courageous young women, who have formed a group of successful pet rescuers. For some years, the Dýrfinna women have been assisting people who have lost their pets by organizing searches and rescues. Now - fearing that time was running out, they quickly put together a list and map where animals were located, organized the owners’ consent and house keys, and had vans, cages and manpower on standby at the towns border, waiting to move in and rescue every creature that had to be rescued.
For more than 24 hours, the situation was very doubtful, if they would be allowed to enter Grindavík. Finally on the evening of the 13th, the long awaited “go” came. These brave young women went from house to house, locating and searching animals which had not been picked up by their owners yet. Accompanied by equally brave members of the Icelandic SAR teams, they put their own lives in danger to rescue the remaining animals. By the end of their successful rescue mission, they had rescued and/or taken care of all animals whose owners – due to various reasons – had not been able to attend to.
As Fred Rogers so beautifully said it in his quote:” When disaster strikes, look for the helpers”
In Iceland, when it comes to animals, the helper´s name is Dýrfinna!
Um okkur | Dýrfinna (dyrfinna.is)
Text: Meike Witt
Photos: Dyrfinna.is / Unspalsh.com / Wikimedia Commons