Brazil floods: horse stranded on roof is rescued as death toll rises to 107 people

Brazil floods: horse stranded on roof is rescued as death toll rises to 107 people

Emergency workers have rescued a horse that had been trapped for days on a rooftop after severe floods in southern Brazil, as the death toll from the disaster rose to 107 people.

The animal, dubbed Caramelo on social media, had been balancing on two narrow strips of slippery asbestos in Canoas, a city in the Porto Alegre metropolitan area that is one of the hardest-hit areas in the state, much of which has been isolated by floodwaters.

On Thursday, rescuers successfully transferred the horse into a Zodiac inflatable boat to take it to safety, providing a rare dose of hope to a beleaguered region.

At least 136 people are still missing and more than 165,000 have been displaced from flooded homes and rescued by boats and helicopters.

More rains are forecast in the coming days, raising fears that water levels will rise further in the inundated state capital of Porto Alegre and nearby town where streets have turned into rivers.

Caramelo’s rescue was broadcast live on television. Firefighters and veterinarians climbed onto the partially submerged roof, sedated and immobilized the horse, and then placed it on an inflatable raft – all 770lbs of it. The operation involved four inflatable boats and four support vessels, with firefighters, soldiers and other volunteers.

“We found the animal in a debilitated state,” Capt Tiago Franco, a firefighter from Sao Paulo deployed to lead the rescue, was quoted as saying in a statement from that state’s security secretariat. “We tried to approach in a calm way.”

The floods have destroyed infrastructure and bridges, blocking access to Porto Alegre, where supermarket shelves are empty and looting has been reported at night.

Governor Eduardo Leite said initial calculations indicate that the state of Rio Grande do Sul will need at least 19bn reais ($3.68bn) to rebuild from the damage, which has extended into farm areas around the capital.

“The effect of the floods and the extent of the tragedy are devastating,” he said on social media.

The stranded horse is just one of many animals rescue workers have been striving to save in recent days. Rio Grande do Sul state agents have rescued about 10,000 animals since last week, while municipal agents and volunteers have saved thousands more, according to the state’s housing secretariat.

Animal protection groups and volunteers have been sharing images of difficult rescues and heartwarming scenes of pets reuniting with their owners on social media. One video that went viral shows a man crying inside a boat, hugging his four dogs after rescuers went back to his home to save them.