Brazil: Volunteers Keep Up Rescue Efforts In Flooded Areas Of Porto Alegre


By Pedro Rafael Vilela

While in some areas of Porto Alegre—such as part of the historic downtown area and the southern districts—the water of the Guaíba river has receded and cleaning has begun, in the north, the flooding remains. Agência Brasil visited a rescue and shelter station set up by hundreds of volunteers at the intersection of Benjamin Constant and Cairu avenues, in the Navegantes neighborhood. The spot is located on the outskirts of Salgado Filho Airport, a terminal that is closed indefinitely due to the floods.

On Saturday afternoon (May 18), more than two weeks after the floods began, tents installed under a viaduct still provided assistance to people and animals in the area.

“Today alone [May 18, Saturday], we’ve pulled 37 people out [of the flood],” said local resident Edmilson Brizola, one of the volunteers. Brizola helped coordinate the boats sailing into the streets. He estimates that, at this single location, over 5 thousand people have been taken, as well as another 2 thousand animals, among which cats, dogs, chickens, horses, birds, and even pigs.

Cairu avenue is still virtually a waterway, as it lies submerged for a stretch of more than 1,500 meters, from its junction with Benjamin Constant avenue all the way to the river. The level of the Guaíba on Sunday morning (19) was reported at 4.43 meters, about 10 centimeters below the previous day. The flood stands at 2.5 meters.

Retiree Marlene Terezinha Silveira, who lives in Sarandi, also in the north, went to the shelter station for clothes and blankets. Her house is still under water and she is far from being able to measure the damage.

“I went there today by boat, but the rooftop was all I could see. I’ve lived in Sarandi for 60 years and it usually floods, sometimes near the gate—but not like this. I’d never imagined this in my life. I’ll be going in there as soon as I can to throw everything out and clean up. I should clean at least my bed, so I have a place to sleep, and the stove, so I can cook,” she declared.

Our reporters traveled through several streets in Navegantes aboard a fire department boat. Some of the locals decided to stay in despite the lack of electricity. Volunteers and rescue teams have also taken on the task of providing these people with batteries, food, and other supplies.

The rescue and shelter facilities on Benjamin Constant avenue are not unlike a war camp. Comprising several tents, the place is divided into sections for medical care, drugs, food, clothing, and blankets, as well as a psychological support unit and a transportation team to take the rescued people to shelters or to relatives’ homes. Also on site are a makeshift repair workshop and a boat refueling area.


Pet rescue has its own first-aid structure and a shelter. One of the volunteers is veterinarian Sheila Kircher, who says she lost a friend in the tragedy.

“I lost a friend in the floods, and I felt utterly powerless as I couldn’t help her when she needed it. So, to keep my mind busy, I thought it would be better to come and help in any way I could, right?” she said.

When animals arrive, they are usually suffering from hypothermia and a number of skin lesions. “We try to send the more serious cases to clinics for surgery,” she added.

Dozens of animals, still without their guardians, are waiting to be sent to shelters or for adoption. Over 12 thousand animals have been rescued in the state so far, as per official figures.

To help accommodate the animals, more than 20 tons of pet food donated to Rio Grande do Sul arrived on the KC-390 Millennium cargo plane of the Brazilian Air Force, which also carried essential items, such as transport boxes, beds, and drinking fountains. Animal adoption campaigns have also been encouraged on social media, with people joining in nationwide.

*Rádio Nacional reported Gabriel Brum contributed to this article.


Agência Brasil (ABr) is the national public news agency, run by the Brazilian government. It is a part of the public media corporation Empresa Brasil de Comunicação (EBC), created in 2007 to unite two government media enterprises Radiobrás and TVE (Televisão Educativa).

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