June 2015 – TBILISI, GEORGIA – Heavy flooding in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, has killed at least 12 people, with officials warning people to stay indoors to avoid animals that have escaped from a zoo. The missing animals include tigers, lions, bears and wolves. Three of the dead people were found within the zoo. A hippopotamus was cornered in one of the city’s main squares and subdued with a tranquilizer gun. Rescue workers are searching submerged homes to check for trapped residents. Dozens of people have been left homeless. A day of mourning has been announced for Monday, Tbilisi Zoo spokeswoman Mzia Sharashidze told InterPressNews agency that three bodies had been found in the zoo, including those of two employees. She said the grounds had been turned into “a hellish whirlpool.”
Ms. Sharashidze said wolves, lions, tigers, jackals and jaguars had been shot dead by Special Forces or were missing. Floodwater rose to the rooftops of enclosures at the zoo, drowning hundreds of animals. Many animals were swept out of their enclosures and escaped. A bear was found clinging to an air-conditioning unit half way up one building, while a man discovered a hyena on his balcony. The flooding began when heavy rains caused the River Vere – normally little more than a stream – to burst its banks. Thousands of people have been left without water and electricity while others have had to be airlifted to safety. Mayor Davit Narmania said the situation was “very grave.” Roads have been destroyed and small houses and cars swept away. Coffins in a city cemetery have reportedly been washed out of the ground and left lying on the mud.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has called on residents to stay indoors until all the animals have been found. President Giorgi Margvelashvili has visited affected area and extended his condolences to relatives of the victims. It remains unclear how many are animals missing. Helicopters are circling the city as part of a search and rescue operation. Vice-mayor Irakly Lekvinadze estimated the preliminary damage at $10m (£6.43m). In May 2012, five people were killed in Tbilisi after another river flooded. –BBC
Wild animals on the loose: A tiger that killed a man and wounded another after escaping from a flooded zoo in Georgia has been shot dead, the Georgian interior ministry says. The animal was one of several to break free from enclosures at Tbilisi Zoo last weekend following severe flooding. Police said they tracked the tiger to a disused warehouse but could not sedate it because it was too aggressive. The flash floods devastated parts of Tbilisi, claiming the lives of 13 people, including three zoo keepers. There was uncertainty on Wednesday about the number of dangerous animals still on the loose, with reports on Twitter of another tiger being cornered in a city centre cafe after the first was shot dead.
The zoo had said on Tuesday that all of the missing lions and tigers had been found dead, with one jaguar unaccounted for – sparking confusion when news of the tiger attack on the two men emerged. Internal Affairs Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri told the press that the animal was found “hiding in an unused store room. We tried our best to sedate the tiger, but it was not possible because the animal was too aggressive. So unfortunately we had to liquidate it,” he said. Special police units drafted in to deal with the threat posed by dangerous animals have faced criticism, with zoo workers alleging that animals have been killed unnecessarily. –BBC