Irma: Cuba airlifts dolphins to safety from deadly hurricane

Officials move mammals to aquarium in south of country before historic storm rips across north

Jeff Farrell
Saturday 09 September 2017 13:10
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Workers carried the sea creatures to a waiting helicopter to be evacuated as Hurricane Irma threatened the area
Workers carried the sea creatures to a waiting helicopter to be evacuated as Hurricane Irma threatened the area

Teams of rescue workers in Cuba airlifted a group of dolphins to safety from Hurricane Irma, hours before winds of up to 160mph struck the area.

The mammals were housed in an aquarium on the island of Cayo Guillermo, off the north central coast of the country, where theCategory 5 storm swept across the archipelago.

Officials removed the six sea creatures from the water and placed them on mats, then wrapped them in giant blue sheets to prepare them for the evacuation.

Men carry the dolphins during their evacuation

Trainers then massaged the mammals’ head to minimise the distress caused, footage on a local news channel Mediodia showed.

Staff massage the dolphins' heads to reduce the distress they suffer during the evacuation

Rescue workers then carried the dolphins on poles on their shoulders to a waiting helicopter - which flew the mammals to safety in the southern province of Cienfuegos.

The dolphins were put in a swimming pool in a special aquarium where keepers said the habitat gave “similar conditions to their natural life”.

But Dolphinarium manager Gonzalo Carrero Escobar said: “If the weather situation does not allow us to keep them there, they will be displaced to the saltwater swimming pool of a hotel.”

It came hours before Hurricane Irma ripped across the north of Cuba, with winds of up to 160 mph battering areas including Camaguey Archipelago.

Television footage showed huge waves crashing over sea walls and power lines downed as the deadly storm swept past. It is the latest episode in a trail of devastation that Irma has left after pummeling through the Caribbean, leaving 21 dead in its wake.

The mammals during their transit

Millions fled from Florida in the past two days as the Category 5 storm is set to batter the southern coast of the state today.

The National Hurricane Centre has issued hurricane and storm surge warnings for the area, where officials ordered a mass evacuation from low-lying areas under threat from the violent winds.

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