Lions, Tigers, Bears & Hippos Escape Zoo Damaged By Floods
Lions, tigers and even a hippopotamus have escaped from a zoo in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, adding to the chaos caused by flooding that has killed at least 12 people.
Police and soldiers were hunting down the animals, recapturing some and shooting others dead, while rescuers airlifted scores of people trapped by the floods on Sunday.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili called on Tbilisi residents to stay indoors while the animals were still at large, describing the damage to the city's infrastructure as "substantial" after the River Vere burst its banks after hours of torrential rain.
"Our latest estimate is that the death toll is 12," Tbilisi Mayor David Narmania said.
The mayor's office said dozens of families had been left without shelter and thousands without water and electricity in the city.
Several main roads were completely destroyed and small houses and cars were swept away by the torrents, while half a dozen coffins in a city cemetery were washed out of the ground and lay on the mud.
Foreign leaders have shown their support for Georgia over Twitter, including the President of neighbouring Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite.
Tbilisi Zoo spokeswoman Mzia Sharashidze told the InterPressNews agency that three dead bodies had been found on the grounds of the zoo, including those of two employees.
This hippopotamus was shot with a tranquiliser dart after its escape.
"Search for animals continues, but a large part of the zoo is simply non-existent. It was turned into a hellish whirlpool," Sharashidze said.
She said 20 wolves, eight lions and an unspecified number of tigers, jackals and jaguars had been shot dead by special forces or were missing.
"Only three out of our 17 penguins were saved," she added.
Rustavi 2 television broadcast footage showing a hippo swimming in the flooded Heroes' Square in downtown Tbilisi as rescuers struggled to capture the animal.
The corpses of a lion and a pony lay on the road close to the zoo on Sunday afternoon, an AFP journalist saw.
A government hotline has been set up for residents to inform emergency services if they spot any of the predators.
Authorities said the damage would amount to millions of dollars.
AFP and Staff Writers