HomeTop StoriesCaramelo, the horse rescued from a roof during the floods in Brazil,...

Caramelo, the horse rescued from a roof during the floods in Brazil, to support a besieged country

Canoas, Brazil – A Brazilian horse nicknamed Caramelo by social media users gained national attention after a television news helicopter filmed him stranded on a rooftop in southern Brazil, where huge Floods have killed more than a hundred people. About 24 hours after he was first spotted and as people screamed for his rescue, a team in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul successfully removed Caramelo on Thursday, bringing a dose of hope to a beleaguered region.

The brown horse had been balancing for days on two narrow strips of slippery asbestos in Canoas, a town in the Porto Alegre metropolitan area, one of the hardest-hit areas in the state, much of which is isolated by flooding.

“We found the animal in a weakened condition,” says Cap. Tiago Franco, a firefighter from Sao Paulo who was deployed to lead the rescue effort, was quoted in a statement from that state’s security secretariat. “We tried to approach in a calm way.”

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Firefighters and veterinarians climb onto a roof in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, surrounded by floodwaters, to rescue a stranded horse, nicknamed Caramelo by followers of its plight on social media, May 9, 2024.

Reuters/TVGLOBO


Firefighters and veterinarians climbed onto the mostly submerged roof, tranquilized and immobilized the horse, then placed him on an inflatable raft — all 770 pounds of him. The operation involved four inflatable boats and four support vessels, with firefighters, soldiers and other volunteers.

The rescue was broadcast live on television networks filming from their helicopters. Social media influencer Felipe Neto sent updates to his nearly 17 million followers on X as the rescue was underway. Then he offered to adopt him.

“Caramelo, Brazil loves you!!! My God, how lucky,” he wrote.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s wife, Janja, posted a video of herself sharing the good news with the Brazilian leader as she whispered in his ear at an official event. He smiled, gave her a thumbs up and hugged her to him. Rio Grande do Sul Governor Eduardo Leite also celebrated the rescue, posting on X: “All lives matter, we stand firm!”

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A horse is seen stranded on a roof surrounded by floodwaters in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, May 9, 2024.

Reuters/TVGLOBO


Caramelo was recovering late Thursday at a university animal hospital.

Mariângela Allgayer, a veterinarian and professor at the institution, said on social media on Thursday afternoon that he had arrived very dehydrated.

He is about seven years old and, based on his characteristics, was probably used as a draft animal for a cart, Bruno Schmitz, one of the veterinarians who helped rescue and evaluate Caramelo, later told television network GloboNews. He’s also very gentle, Schmitz added, which helped tremendously when administering sedatives.

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Firefighters and veterinarians transport a sedated horse nicknamed Caramelo by inflatable raft to dry land in the flooded state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil, May 9, 2024.

Reuters/TVGLOBO


“It was a very difficult operation, far above standards even for specialized teams. I don’t think they have ever experienced anything like this before, but thank God everything went well,” he said, before leaving Caramelo standing.

The stranded horse is just one of many animals that rescuers have tried to save in recent days. Rio Grande do Sul state agents have rescued about 10,000 animals since last week, while those in municipalities and volunteers have rescued thousands more, the state’s housing secretariat said.

Animal rescue groups and volunteers are sharing images of difficult rescues and heartwarming scenes of pets being reunited with their owners on social media. One video that went viral showed a man crying in a boat as he hugged his four dogs after rescuers returned to his home to save them.

Heavy rains and flooding in Rio Grande do Sul have killed at least 107 people. Another 136 are reported missing and state authorities say more than 230,000 people have been displaced. There is no official figure for the number of animals killed or missing, but local media estimate the number is in the thousands.

Floods in Brazil
A resident carries his pets as he evacuates from a flooded area after heavy rain in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, May 7, 2024.

Carlos Macedo/AP


Not far from where Caramelo was rescued, pet owners in Canoas celebrated as they waited in line to receive donations at a makeshift animal shelter organized by volunteers.

“So much bad news, but this rescue gives people here a little more hope,” said Guilherme Santos, 23, as he looked for dog food for his two puppies. “If they can save a horse, why not all the dogs that are still missing? We certainly can.”

Carla Sassi, president of Grad, a Brazilian nonprofit that rescues animals after disasters, said she is meeting with government officials in Canoas to discuss emergency measures for pet rescue.

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