Caramelo, a Brazilian horse trapped on a roof by floods, has been rescued after sweeping the country.

A man and his dog are reunited at a shelter for dogs evacuated from areas flooded by heavy rains, Thursday, May 9, 2024, in Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil. (AP Photo/Andre Benner)

CANOVAS, Brazil (AP) — A Brazilian horse, nicknamed Caramelo by social media users, has drawn national attention after a television news helicopter captured it stuck on a roof in southern Brazil. More than 100 people died in the massive flood.

About 24 hours after he was first found and people clamored to save him, a team in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state successfully removed Caramelo on Thursday, giving hope to a region in crisis.

A brown horse had been balancing on two narrow strips of slippery asbestos for days in the town of Canoas, one of the hardest-hit areas of the state.

“We found the beast in a weak state,” Cap. Firefighter Diego Franco from Sao Paulo led the rescue, according to a statement from the state’s defense secretariat. “We tried to approach it in a peaceful way.”

Firefighters and veterinarians climbed onto the often-submerged roof, sedated and immobilized the horse, then laid him in an inflatable boat — his 770 pounds. The operation involved four inflatable boats and four support vessels with firefighters, soldiers and other volunteers.

The rescue was broadcast live on television networks, filmed from their helicopters. Social media influencer Felipe Neto sent updates to his nearly 17 million followers on X as rescue efforts continued. Later, he offered to adopt him.

“Caramelo, Brazil loves you!!! My God, what joy,” he wrote.

Janja, wife of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, posted a video of herself sharing the gospel with the Brazilian leader, whispering 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 Light also celebrated the rescue, posting on X: “All lives matter, we are determined!”

Caramelo is recovering at a university-affiliated veterinary hospital.

Mariangela Algaier, a veterinarian and professor at the institute, said on social media Thursday afternoon that she arrived very dehydrated.

He was about 7 years old and, based on his characteristics, could have been used as a draft animal for a cart, Bruno Schmitz, one of the veterinarians who helped rescue and evaluate Caramelo, later told the television network GloboNews. He was very gentle, Schmitz added, which helped greatly with the administration of anesthesia.

“It was a very difficult process, beyond the standards even for special teams. I don’t think they’ve ever experienced something like this before, but thank God everything went well,” he said, then showed Caramello standing up.

The stranded horse is one of several animals involved in rescue efforts in recent days. Rio Grande do Sul state agents have rescued about 10,000 animals since last week, while people in municipalities and volunteers have rescued thousands, according to the state’s housing secretariat.

Animal rescue groups and volunteers have been sharing pictures of harrowing rescues and heartwarming scenes of pets being reunited with their owners on social media. A video that went viral showed a man crying inside a boat, hugging rescuers after they went back to his home and rescued them.

At least 107 people have died after heavy rains and flooding in the Rio Grande do Sul region. State officials said another 136 people are missing and more than 230,000 have been displaced. There is no official figure for the number of animals killed or missing, but local media have estimated the number to be in the thousands.

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

“It’s very bad news, but this rescue gives people here some more hope,” said 23-year-old Guilherme Santos as he searched for dog food for his two puppies. “If they can save one horse, why can’t they save all the dogs that are still missing? We can definitely do this.

Carla Sassi, president of Gradin, a Brazilian nonprofit that rescues animals after disasters, said she would meet with state government officials in Canoas to discuss emergency measures to rescue pets.


Sá Pessoa reports from São Paulo.

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