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MMA community rallies after unprecedented floods leave hundreds of cities underwater in Brazil

The MMA community has come together in support of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.

Hundreds of cities have been hit by a historic flood in the state of Rio Grande do Sul since late April. So far 95 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds are still missing. More than 100,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed altogether, leaving more than 200,000 people with no place to live. The local government calculates nearly a billion dollar in damages so far.

The amount of rain that fell between April 22 and May 6 totaled the amount that would be expected over a period of five months, which led the Guaiba lake to flood and invade hundreds of cities, including state capital Porto Alegre. The Gigantinho gymnasium, which held a UFC event in 2015 featuring Frank Mir vs. Antonio Silva as main event, is currently surrounded by water, as are major soccer stadiums and hundreds of buildings and roads.

Several fighters used their post-fight interviews this past weekend at UFC 301, which took place in Rio de Janeiro, to call upon their countrymen to join forces and help the victims. Many others have taken to social media to announce donation, and coaches and fighters from all around the world are hosting seminars in exchange for food and donations.

Tons of non-perishable food donated by fans in exchange for tickets to the UFC 301 ceremonial weigh-ins on May 3 — items that would originally be donated to social institutions in Rio de Janeiro — will now be donated to Canoas, one of the cities most affected by the floods, UFC announced Tuesday.

One-time Bellator veteran Thiago Meller, who teaches martial arts near Porto Alegre, told MMA Fighting he has never experienced anything like this in nearly 30 years of serving in the Brazilian Army.

“It’s really, really sad,” Meller said. “And it’s not only Porto Alegre. The scenes are shocking. The center of command of the Army waits on the Civil Defense to see who gets to get saved first. A lot of people will still show up dead. This is like a war zone. We wake up every day and see where we’re going to help people. Everybody gets on boats and do what we can. … We have a lot of volunteers helping, but we don’t have enough boats and jet skis.”

Meller’s house is intact and his wife and kids are safe, but his 75-year-old in-laws lost everything after water entered their residence by the Guaiba. Meller said that many martial arts gyms have opened doors to house homeless people.

“We went to a nursing home, a friend asked to take his family to a safe place,” Meller said. “Many people will still show up, people that are missing. It’s so sad. You see people losing everything. An Army sergeant, a black belt, lost everything. He was doing a crowdfund to buy clothes because the water took everything he had.

“Everybody is suffering, we all lost something. It’s heartbreaking to see people finding out their houses were destroyed. My father-in-law thought his house would be safe after I rescued them, and it was hard to see a big man cry like a child after finding out the water has taken everything he’s built.”

It will still take days for the water to lower back to its regular level, and many months for the state to built itself back up.

International donations can be made through Brazil Foundation, crowdfunding campaigns, or through the state’s official website.

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