Tbilisi flash floods: Lions, bears and tigers roam Georgian capital as storm hits

The city's zoo was flooded, meaning animals could escape into the nearby streets

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The Independent Online

Twelve people are reported dead and dozens missing as flash floods hit Tbilisi, Georgia. Officials have warned people to stay at home as tigers, bears and wolves escaped from the zoo and are roaming the city.

Heavy rain began at midnight on Saturday night, causing the Vere river to rush through the city, sweeping away cars and buildings and completely flooding the zoo, Reuters reported.

Lions, bears, tigers and wolves were among at least 30 animals that escaped and were on Sunday roaming the streets. Local news agencies later reported more than half the animals had been returned to the zoo.

A dazed hippopotamus was seen wallowing in the central Hero’s square before being tranquillised and returned to safety, Civil.ge agency reported.

A crocodile was photographed swimming down a street.



Some were killed by police, including a rare breed of white lion cub and six wolves roaming the grounds of a nearby children's hospital. The capital’s police are warning people to stay indoors.


Three employees of the zoo are among the fatalities. One of these was helping to save lions and tigers and just a week earlier had lost an arm after a run-in with a big cat.





“The damage is substantial,” said PM Irakli Garibashvili in a statement released on Sunday morning.

At least 24 people were still missing and 37 were taken to hospital with injuries, Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri told an emergency government meeting. Monday was declared a day of national mourning.

“Dozens of families remain homeless as their houses  were destroyed or damaged in the capital. They are some victims,” vice mayor of Tbilisi Irakly Lekvinadze told Reuters. He said initial estimates put damages at $18 million.

The city’s 1.1 million residents were urged to stay indoors until the remaining animals could be secured. “Not all the animals who ran away from the zoo have been captured,” said David Narmania, Tbilisi’s mayor.

“Therefore, I want to ask the populace to refrain from moving about the city.” A large part of the zoo remained under water, its spokeswoman said.