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Galapagos volcano eruption forces evacuation of giant tortoises

October 7, 1998
Webposted at 12:00 PM EDT

GALAPAGOS, Ecuador (CNN) -- After 19 years of silence, the Blue Hills Volcano has erupted, sending rivers of lava from its craters to the surrounding vicinity, including the habitat of the endangered Galapagos giant tortoise.

The volcano on Isabel, the largest of the Galapagos Islands, is composed of five smaller volcanoes known as the Five Hills.

A rescue mission was carried out by the Ecuadorian Armed Forces, the Galapagos National Park and the Civil Defense of Puerto Villamil to rescue the huge animals from the molten lava.

The giant tortoises were suspended from a helicopter that transported them to safety to the Puerto Villamil Breeding Center. The airlifted animals each weighed nearly 100 kilograms.

Authorities said they will take the offspring of the giant tortoises back to their natural habitat in four years.



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