Pics: Zoo animals on the loose after severe flooding

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
Dangerous: A Hippopotamus in the streets after the mass escape from a zoo in Tbilisi
Dangerous: A Hippopotamus in the streets after the mass escape from a zoo in Tbilisi

Rescue workers in the Georgian capital are still searching for at least two dozen people and an unknown number of potentially dangerous animals missing after severe flooding ravaged the city's zoo and left at least 12 people dead.

Tbilisi zoo director Zurab Gurielidze said today that none of the people who died was killed by the zoo animals set free in the flooding. Three zoo employees drowned.

Among the animals that escaped from the flooded zoo were lions, tigers, bears, wolves and a hippopotamus. Some, including the hippopotamus, were tranquilised and returned to the zoo.

Others were shot by police, while some remain missing.

Mr Gurielidze said it was still not possible to access the cages to assess the damage and count the animals on the loose.

Paul Rimple, a journalist based in Tbilisi, said the zoo estimated that around half of its 600 mammals, fish and birds had fled their enclosures amid the flooding from heavy rains and high winds.

"It's so surreal. Helicopters are circling overhead and they've warned people to stay indoors but not everyone's doing that," Rimple said.

"People are walking around with their babies just a few blocks from where a wolf was shot in the south of the city.

Apparently a jaguar was reported in the north.

"Until somebody gets mauled or killed, no one's going to panic."

Rimple said the authorities were shooting animals they regarded as a danger to the public.

About 1.1 million people live in the capital.