PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — A Brazilian horse nicknamed Caramelo by social media users garnered national attention after a television news helicopter spotted it stranded on a rooftop, presumably for days, in southern Brazil, where massive floods have killed more than 100 people.

About 24 hours after it was first spotted and with people clamoring for its rescue, a team in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state on Thursday successfully removed Caramelo, providing a dose of hope to a beleaguered region.

The brown horse 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.

“We found the animal in a debilitated state,” Cap. 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.”

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

The rescue was broadcast live on television networks that filmed from their helicopters. Social media influencer Felipe Neto sent out updates to his almost 17 million followers on X as the rescue was underway. Afterwards, he offered to adopt it.

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

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

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 those in municipalities 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.

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

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


Sá Pessoa reported from São Paulo.

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