Flash flooding in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi killed at least 12 people and sent zoo animals into the streets.
Special police units hunted for the roaming animals, including tigers, lions, bears, wolves and a hippo named Begi, ABC News reports. Heavy rainfall caused the Vere river to flood on Saturday into Sunday, washing away buildings and cars and damaging roads.
“The daytime wasn’t bad,” Tbilisi resident Khariton Gabashvili told the Associated Press, “but tonight everyone has to be very careful because all the beasts haven’t been captured. They haven’t been fed, and in their hungry state they might attack people.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Residents Have Been Asked to Stay Indoors
As the search continues for the escaped zoo animals and while the water recedes, the 1.1 million residents of Tbilisi have been asked to stay inside, except for emergency.
At least 11 people were injured and more than two dozen are still missing, along with the 12 dead, officials said. The search for injured and missing, along with the hunt for the zoo animals, was only set to continue until Sunday night, because of fears of more rain, NBC News reports.
Prime Minister Gigla Agulashvil announced that there could be a repeat of Saturday night’s rain, and rescue work would stop “to avoid further loss.”
2. Three Dead People Were Found Inside the Zoo
Zoo spokesperson Mzia Sharashidze said three bodies were found inside the zoo, including two employees, the BBC reports.
She said the zoo’s grounds were turned into a “a hellish whirlpool.”
The floodwater rose to the rooftops of zoo enclosures, she said.
3. Several Animals Were Killed During the Flooding & After Fleeing the Zoo
Hundreds of animals drowned in the zoo after the waters rose above their enclosures, the BBC reports. Others were swept out of the buildings and enclosures and escaped.
A bear was found on an air-conditioning unit and a hyena managed to find its way onto a man’s balcony, according to the BBC.
Dramatic photos and video showed police and citizens cornering a hippopotamus named Begi in the city’s flooded streets. It was tranquilized and returned to a temporary enclosure at the zoo.
Special police forces fatally shot six wolves in the yard of a hospital, NBC News reports. Other animals were also shot by police.
Mzia Sharashidze, the zoo’s spokesperson, told ABC News not many of the animals remain on the loose:
We’re still not entirely sure how many animals were lost. It’s a disaster. We lost three employees and more than half of our zoo’s population. The only predator animals who survived the flooding are a white lion and leopards.
It’s like a Noah’s Ark, but unfortunately, in our case, not even half of the animals survived. We won’t know the complete extent of the damage to the zoo until the flooding stops and we are given a chance to inspect and begin the cleanup process.
4. The Head of the Georgian Orthodox Church Blamed the Flooding on Communists
Patriarch Ilia II, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, said at a Sunday Mass that the former Communist rulers of Georgia are responsible for the flooding.
“When Communists came to us in this country, they ordered that all crosses and bells of the churches be melted down and the money used to build the zoo,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “The sin will not go without punishment. I am very sorry that Georgians fell so that a zoo was built at the expense of destroyed churches.”
5. The Damage Has Been Estimated at $20 Million
Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri said the damage is estimated at $20 million, NBC News reports.
The flooding left thousands of people without water and electricity, and others had to be airlifted from their damaged homes to safety, the BBC reports.
Mayor Davit Narmania told the news organization the situation in the city is “very grave.”