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Southern Brazil Faces Flooding Catastrophe

Surfers lead rescues in some of the worst floods ever seen.

elsewhere // May 9, 2024
Words by Steve Allain
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul is currently undergoing the worst floods in history, with at least 100 dead, 150,000 homeless, and countless more unaccounted. Amid the catastrophe, surfers have emerged as unsung heroes, navigating treacherous areas to rescue those swept away by the deluge. Among these brave souls are Lucas Chumbo and Pedro Scooby, who alongside their fearless teams, are braving the rising waters to save lives amidst the chaos.

The toll of this natural disaster is stark, with over 80% of counties in the state of Rio Grande do Sul bearing the brunt of the floods, according to harrowing reports. With communities submerged and infrastructure devastated, the human cost of this catastrophe is immeasurable. Officially, there are 100 deaths and 128 people missing, but the true death toll will only be known when the waters recede.

“It’s like a war zone out here,” says Thomaz Fochesatto, a lawyer and surfer who lives in Garopaba, 300 miles away, and just as many fellow surfers, packed up his dingy with water and supplies and drove down to the flooded areas to help rescue stranded families. “I have no idea when I’ll be able to come home, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of people who still need rescuing.” 

Lives lost, families torn apart, and livelihoods washed away paint a grim portrait of devastation, compounded by the looming specters of disease, crocodile encounters and rampant crime.

But amid this bleak landscape, stories of heroism shine through the darkness. Lucas Chumbo speaks of the innate duty that drives him and others to action in the face of adversity.

“Surfing runs deeper,” he reflects. “It’s about solidarity, resilience, about community. When fellow Brazilians cry out for help, it’s not just a choice, but a calling to which we must answer.”

A drone view of the flooded Beira-Rio stadium home of the Sport Club Internacional in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. REUTERS/Diego Vara

Pedro Scooby echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the power of collective action. “These floods have plunged our communities into turmoil,” his face bare of his perennial smile. “As surfers, we possess a unique skill set to navigate these tricky waters and reach those stranded. Each life saved is a victory. We saved nearly 200 people from their flooded homes in the last couple of days, and that’s not nearly enough.”

In the heart of the disaster zone, amid swirling currents and debris-strewn streets, Chumbo, Scooby and dozens of relentless teams of volunteers brave the sewage-infested torrents, armed with nothing but jet skis and an unyielding determination to make a difference.

“I’ll never forget the sight of desperate faces in need of rescue,” Chumbo recounts.

World and Olympic Champ, Ítalo Ferreira, also contributed. He raised nearly USD 30K in the matter of hours by selling some of his most famous surfboards online – which he donated to victims. He’s now driving south towards the affected region with skis, water and supplies on tow.

As Rio Grande do Sul grapples its worst natural disaster in history, the courage and selflessness of surfers like Chumbo, Scooby, Ítalo and dozens of lesser known professional and recreational surfers, stand as a testament to the true spirit of surfing. 

To help the victims of one of Brazil’s worst ever disasters, donate here:

Euro:
Standard Chartered Bank Frankfurt Bank
Swift: SCBLDEFX
Bank Account: 007358304

Dollar:
Standard Chartered Bank New York Bank
Swift: SCBLUS33
Bank Account: 3544032986001

Pound Sterling:
Standard Chartered Bank – London, UK
Swift: SCBLGB2L
Bank Account: 01251596201

IBAN Code: BR5392702067001000645423206C1
Name: Associação dos Bancos no Estado do Rio Grande do Sul
CNPJ: 92.958.800/0001-38

Other international accounts will soon be provided through Banco do Brasil.

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