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Zoo Animals Roam Free in Flooded Georgia Capital Tbilisi

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TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Tigers, lions, a hippopotamus and other animals escaped from the zoo in Georgia’s capital after heavy flooding destroyed their enclosures, prompting authorities to warn residents in Tbilisi to stay inside Sunday. At least 12 people have been killed in the disaster, including three zoo workers.

People help a hippopotamus escape from a flooded zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 14, 2015. Tigers, lions, a hippopotamus and other animals have escaped from the zoo in Georgia’s capital after heavy flooding destroyed their enclosures, prompting authorities to warn residents in Tbilisi to stay inside Sunday. (AP Photo/Tinatin Kiguradze)

People help a hippopotamus escape from a flooded zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia. (AP Photo/Tinatin Kiguradze)

A hippopotamus walks along a flooded street in Tbilisi on June 14, 2015. Tigers, lions, jaguars, bears and wolves escaped on June 14 from flooded zoo enclosures in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the mayor's office said. Some of the animals were captured by police while others were shot dead, the mayor's office told local Rustavi 2 television. At least eight people have drowned and several others are missing in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in serious flooding. BESO GULASHVILI  / AFP / Getty Images

BESO GULASHVILI / AFP / Getty Images

A man gestures to a hippopotamus at a flooded street in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 14, 2015. At least five people died and several are missing as a result of heavy rainfall and floods overnight in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, Georgian news agencies reported on Sunday. Animals from the city's zoo including tigers, lions, bears and wolves escaped from cages damaged by the rainfall. Some were captured or killed while the search for others goes on. REUTERS/Beso Gulashvili

REUTERS/Beso Gulashvili

A hippopotamus walks across a flooded street in Tbilisi on June 14, 2015. Tigers, lions, jaguars, bears and wolves escaped on June 14 from flooded zoo enclosures in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the mayor's office said. Some of the animals were captured by police while others were shot dead, the mayor's office told local Rustavi 2 television. At least eight people have drowned and several others are missing in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in serious flooding. BESO GULASHVILI / AFP / Getty Images

BESO GULASHVILI / AFP / Getty Images

A man shoots a tranquilizer dart to put a hippopotamus to sleep. REUTERS/Beso Gulashvili

A man shoots a tranquilizer dart to put a hippopotamus to sleep. REUTERS/Beso Gulashvili

People follow a hippopotamus that has been shot with a tranquilizer dart after it escaped from a flooded zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 14, 2015. Tigers, lions, a hippopotamus and other animals have escaped from the zoo in Georgia’s capital after heavy flooding destroyed their enclosures, prompting authorities to warn residents in Tbilisi to say inside Sunday. At least eight people have been killed in the disaster, including three zoo workers, and 10 are missing. (AP Photo/Beso Gulashvili)

AP Photo/Beso Gulashvili

REUTERS/Beso Gulashvili

REUTERS/Beso Gulashvili

An escaped hippo was cornered in one of the city’s main squares and subdued with a tranquilizer gun, the zoo said. Some other animals also have been seized, but it remained unclear how many are on the loose. Bears and wolves are also among the animals that fled from their enclosures amid the flooding from heavy rains and high winds.

There were no immediate reports that any of the fatalities were due to animal attacks. The zoo said one of the dead was Guliko Chitadze, a zookeeper who lost an arm in an attack by a tiger last month; the Interfax news agency said her husband also died in the flooding.

As of mid-afternoon Sunday, it was unclear how many animals remained on the loose or what species they are.

A wounded swan is seen at a flooded zoo area in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 14, 2015. Tigers, lions, a hippopotamus and other animals have escaped from the zoo in Georgia’s capital after heavy flooding destroyed their enclosures, prompting authorities to warn residents in Tbilisi to say inside Sunday. At least eight people have been killed in the disaster, including three zoo workers, and 10 are missing. (AP Photo/Beso Gulashvili)

A wounded swan is seen at a flooded zoo area in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Beso Gulashvili)

“Not all the animals who ran away from the zoo have been captured. Therefore, I want to ask the populace to refrain from moving about the city without” an urgent need to, mayor David Narmania said.

A full accounting of what animals were missing wasn’t immediately possible because a large part of the zoo remained underwater, zoo spokeswoman Khaati Batsilaishvili told The Associated Press.

A bear tries to save itself from a flooded zoo area in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 14, 2015. Tigers, lions, a hippopotamus and other animals have escaped from the zoo in Georgia’s capital after heavy flooding destroyed their enclosures, prompting authorities to warn residents in Tbilisi to say inside Sunday. At least eight people have been killed in the disaster, including three zoo workers, and 10 are missing. (AP Photo/Beso Gulashvili)

A bear tries to save itself from a flooded zoo area in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Beso Gulashvili)

Heavy rains and wind hit Tbilisi during the night, turning a normally small stream that runs through the hilly city into a surging river. The flooding also damaged dozens of houses.

Narmania told journalists that 12 people were known to have died.

Helicopters circled the city and volunteers and rescue workers labored to help those whose residences were damaged or destroyed, despite the potential danger from the escaped animals. About 1.1 million people live in the former Soviet republic’s capital.

A municipal worker sits near the body of a lion at a flooded zoo area in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 14, 2015. Tigers, lions, a hippopotamus and other animals have escaped from the zoo in Georgiaís capital after heavy flooding destroyed their enclosures, prompting authorities to warn residents in Tbilisi to say inside Sunday. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

A municipal worker sits near the body of a lion at a flooded zoo area in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sunday, June 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as telling a Sunday Mass that Georgia’s former Communist rulers could be seen as involved in the disaster.

“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. “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.”


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