Authorities issued a warning Sunday morning to residents of Tbilisi, capital city of Georgia, to stay indoors while experts round up wolves, bears, tigers, lions, and a hippo that were set loose from a large zoo following a flood in which — according to Mayor David Narmaniya — at least eight people have been killed and 10 were reported missing.
The animals were set free from their enclosures after a heavy downpour that began soon after midnight, which caused a stream to burst its banks and sweep through the zoo, destroying enclosures.
Reveling in their unexpected freedom, the animals roamed the streets, causing several awkward encounters with bewildered residents and stunned drivers.
Astonishing images showing dangerous zoo animals roaming freely through flooded streets of the city were shared on social media last night. One of the photos showed a massive hippopotamus wandering along a major highway, past parked cars in the center of the city and stopping casually to pick leaves from trees.
The hippo was later captured at the city’s main square after officers cornered it and shot it with a tranquilizer dart.
Although several escaped animals have been recaptured and some killed, officers were still searching for dangerous beasts Sunday morning as residents who left home early hurried back to safety.
A driver could not believe his eyes when he saw a lion walking down the street. Residents also reported seeing a crocodile walking down a flooded road.
According to local media reports, officers shot dead several wolves that escaped from the zoo. Photos showed dead bodies of the wolves being loaded into trucks and driven away.
Among beasts reported to have escaped were bears, tigers, and lions. It remains unclear how many of these dangerous animals escaped and how many have been captured or killed by armed teams hunting them.
The flood reportedly swept away cars and a building. While authorities said no resident was killed by the escaped animals, media reporters have been unable to independently confirm the cause of eight reported deaths, including three zoo keepers.
Tragically, one of the dead zookeepers was Guliko Chitadze, who lost an arm in a tiger attack last month.
Meanwhile, the authorities mobilized troops to help in the emergency response. NBC News reports that helicopters were seen hovering in the sky over the city with a population of more than one million.
Mayor David Narmaniya said rescue efforts were ongoing.
“The first stage of the rescue effort is almost over,” he said, “but we are still looking for several people.”
[Images via Twitter]