Over 30 animals are estimated to have been released in Saturday night's floods in Tbilisi, Georgia. While specialized forces hunt or capture the released animals, politicians estimates damage costs and sets up a day of mourning.
Historic floods opened Noah's Ark in Tbilisi, Georgia, Saturday night. Citizens are advised to stay indoors after the capital city's zoo announced that lions, tigers and bears were among the released animals.
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NBC News reports that special forces have been mobilized to clean up the escaped animals. Over 20 people are reported missing or dead. Georgian Culture Minister Mikheil Giorgadz spoke with the organization, saying, "The special forces are doing everything to control the situation. We are all mobilized."
Three victims include zoo workers. One victim was zookeeper Guliko Chitadze, who had already lost an arm to due to tiger attack last month. As helicopters circle the city, Tbilisi residents are trying to guide animals to safe locations for tranquilization and relocation until the water recedes.
One instance included several workers, residents, and police working together to tranquilize a hippopotamus. Other people encountered bears and big cats roaming the streets where help was not immediately available.
However, it's advisable to not attempt any rescue without proper training. Cornered, scared animals may become aggressive and even more dangerous. "Not many animals are still on the loose but it is difficult to say how many are still out there," said spokeswoman Mzia Sharashidze.
Reuters estimates over 30 animals were swept out of paddocks and enclosures by the flood waters. While 15 of the animals have been returned, the final count is hard to estimate given the facility damage.
So far the total is six dead wolves in front of a hospital and what NBC believes to be footage of a dead lion, a hyena, and a wolf all deceased from the flooding. Many of the animals left in the zoo were killed while still enclosed in the area. Among the dead is a rare white lion cub.
Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri believes the damages to be around $20 billion for the 1.1 million people living in Tbilisi. The normally peaceful Vere river was flooded by the sudden rain, says USA Today. Reuters adds that buildings, cars, and roads were washed away in the sudden torrent.
And the worst is not over, according to Georgia's Environment Minister Gigla Agulashvili. With a possible repeat of Saturday night’s rains on Sunday, the Prime Minister announced that Monday, June 15, would be a national day of mourning for the flood victims.
In the meantime, former Soviet republic neighbors like the Ukraine are offering aid and support in the recovery process. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk released a statement, detailing the call to his counterpart, according to Ukraine Today.
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“The parties agreed that the relevant services of the two countries will keep contact on the organization, if necessary, deliver humanitarian aid to the affected regions.”