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An Indonesian volunteer returns from a dangerous rescue mission to a remote island where a volcano has recently unleashed a massive eruption, leaving an abandoned, emaciated dog covered in blisters and burned.

Mount Ruang in northern Indonesia has erupted more than half a dozen times since April 16, spewing a spectacular mix of ash, lava and lightning, forcing the island’s residents to permanently relocate and evacuating thousands.

But as locals fled, a group of volunteers traveled by boat to Ruang in a daring rescue mission, rescuing abandoned pets from the base of the volcano, which is on the highest alert level, Agence France Presse reported.

„We know they (animals) are still living there. How can we let them die when we know they are still alive?” 31-year-old volunteer Laurent Tan told AFP on Saturday.

Laurent, who owns two animal shelters in the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado, was one of eight volunteers who made the six-hour boat trip to Ruang’s neighboring island of Tagulandang several times following the explosions.

On their journey to the gray homes of the island, they rescue an unnamed puppy, a white cat, and a bright turquoise and white tropical bird.

A female dog with burns on her face and body was brought to a makeshift shelter in Dagulantang, where a veterinarian treated her on a wooden table while a volunteer held up a mobile phone flashlight.

She took refuge in a large sewer and appeared to have escaped the explosions. Above ground the surrounding village was destroyed, Laurent said.

A team of volunteers from animal welfare organizations, deployed for a second time on Friday after some pet owners made desperate social media appeals to get their pets out, has since rescued „a lot” of animals, he added.

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An AFP reporter at the scene said more than a dozen animals had been rescued since Friday.

Some owners learned that their pets were still alive after seeing pictures of Ruang Island in the media.

Officials have told locals to evacuate outside a seven-kilometer (4.3-mile) exclusion zone around the crater, which was reduced to five kilometers on Sunday, with about 11,000 people earmarked for evacuation.

As of Saturday, more than 5,000 people had been evacuated from Tagulandang, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said on Sunday, while all residents of Ruang — more than 800 — had been taken for permanent relocation.

Officials have warned of the risk of flying rocks, lava and tsunamis from sliding into the sea.

But despite the danger, the volunteers went to work.

A man climbs over the fence of an abandoned house to rescue several dogs left behind by their owner before Hendrix hands them over to Hermawan.

Hendrix said the owner asked volunteers to help rescue the dogs, including a five-month-old puppy.

Many of the rescued animals appeared hungry and stressed after their owners abandoned them, he told AFP.

„The first treatment we do here is to give them food and extra vitamins to relieve their stress,” he said, adding that the animals can survive as long as they are nourished.

Laurent said the volunteers aim to rescue all dogs, cats and birds threatened by the volcano, bring them to Manado and reunite them with their original owners.

While the initial focus of the outbreaks was on the human impact, the volunteer said the animals should not be forgotten.

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„Our main focus is the animals. Many people have already received help, but there is no help for these animals,” he said.

„To me, their lives matter. We consider them part of our family.”

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