Makeshift clinic saving pets burned in Chile forest fires
Santa Juana, Chile — The kitten “was rolled into a ball” and had “his paws deformed and his little face burned,” said Carolina Gonzalez, a volunteer at a make-shift clinic in Santa Juana, one of the settlements hardest hit by devastating forest fires in Chile this past week.
The clinic, hastily erected in a school, saw 70 furry patients on Sunday alone — and more than 150 in three days — including the kitten that had its paws strapped up and its face carefully cleaned after being saved from a house abandoned in the inferno.
Dogs, cats, chickens, horses and cows … domestic animals too have suffered from the fires that have razed some 270,000 hectares (667,000 acres) of land — an area larger than Luxembourg — and claimed 26 human lives by Monday.
“We wanted to set up this center because we know… there are many animals that were affected,” Susan Angulo, a veterinarian in charge of the improvized clinic, told AFP.
“There are many rural areas that are totally burnt.”
Angulo said volunteer teams are travelling to villages, fields and forests in search of animals that need help after the devastating blazes that hit south-central Chile since last week.
“We have tried to reach all of the most affected areas,” she said.
Many people fled from the flames with just the clothes on their backs, and with no time to rescue pets.
The clinic receives medical supplies and food via donations from the public and from veterinarians.
About half the area of Santa Juana, home to some 13,000 people scattered between its urban center and surrounding farmland and forests, was destroyed by flames fueled by strong wind, record high temperatures and drought conditions blamed on climate change.
The town is more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of the capital, Santiago.
“We know that more animals are going to appear, because they are in shock,” said Angulo.
For now, they are hiding, but later, “they will continue to show up in a bad state,” she said.