Ten die, tigers es­cape as Tbil­isi floods

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY IRAKLI METREVELI

Li­ons, tigers, bears and other wild an­i­mals es­caped from a zoo in the Ge­or­gian cap­i­tal Tbil­isi Sun­day, adding to chaos caused by flood­ing that killed at least 10 peo­ple, of­fi­cials said.

Po­lice and sol­diers were hunt­ing down the an­i­mals, re­cap­tur­ing some and shoot­ing oth­ers dead, while res­cuers air­lifted scores of peo­ple trapped by the floods.

Prime Min­is­ter Irakli Garib­ashvili called on Tbil­isi res­i­dents to stay in­doors while the an­i­mals were still on the loose, de­scrib­ing the dam­age to the city’s in­fra­struc­ture as “sub­stan­tial” af­ter the River Vere burst its banks af­ter hours of tor­ren­tial rain.

“The num­ber of peo­ple killed in the flood has grown to 10,” a spokesman at the State Se­cu­rity and Cri­sis Man­age­ment Coun­cil told AFP.

“Res­cuers are among the dead. The num­ber of miss­ing peo­ple is be­ing es­tab­lished. At least 36 peo­ple have been hos­pi­tal­ized, in­clud- ing 16 with mul­ti­ple frac­tures.”

The floods turned the streets and squares into rag­ing tor­rents, sweep­ing away cars and flood­ing houses in the ex-Soviet state.

Tbil­isi Zoo spokes­woman Mzia Sha­rashidze told the In­terPressNews agency that three dead bod­ies had been found on the grounds of the zoo, in­clud­ing two em­ploy­ees.

‘Hellish whirlpool’

“Search for an­i­mals con­tin­ues, but a large part of the zoo is sim­ply non-ex­is­tent. It was turned into a hellish whirlpool,” she said.

“Some 20 wolves, eight li­ons, white tigers, tigers, jack­als, jaguars have ei­ther been shot dead by spe­cial forces or are miss­ing. Only three out of our 17 pen­guins were saved.”

Rus­tavi 2 tele­vi­sion broad­cast footage show­ing a hippo swim­ming in the flooded He­roes’ Square in down­town Tbil­isi as res­cuers strug­gled to cap­ture the an­i­mal.

Pic­tures cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia showed a huge al­li­ga­tor wad­ing past parked cars and a bear perched on an air-con­di­tion­ing unit on the side of a build­ing.

Pres­i­dent Giorgi Margve­lashvili sent his con­do­lences to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies as he vis­ited the af­fected area to ob­serve the cleanup op­er­a­tion.

“The hu­man losses that we have suf­fered are very hard to tol­er­ate. I ex­press my con­do­lences to all the peo­ple who lost their rel­a­tives,” Margve­lashvili told lo­cal TV.

Sev­eral main thor­ough­fares in the city of 1.2 mil­lion were cov­ered with thick layer of mud and hun­dreds of fallen trees.

The main dam­age was done when the Vere river — which flows through the park con­tain­ing the zoo in the cen­ter of the city — burst its banks.

Mayor David Nar­ma­nia called on Tbil­isi res­i­dents to help take part in the clean-up op­er­a­tions that are un­der way through­out the city, with his of­fice say­ing that dozens of fam­i­lies had been left with­out shel­ter and thou­sands with­out wa­ter and elec­tric­ity.

The head of the im­mensely in­flu­en­tial Ge­or­gian Or­tho­dox Church, Pa­tri­arch Ilia II, blamed the floods on the “sin” of Com­mu­nists who he said built the zoo us­ing money raised from destroying churches and melt­ing down their bells.

“A ter­ri­ble tragedy hap­pened, peo­ple died in the flood. Tbil­isi Zoo is rav­aged. When the Com­mu­nists oc­cu­pied Ge­or­gia, and started re­pres­sions against Chris­tians and the clergy and the de­struc­tion of churches and monas­ter­ies, they or­dered church bells to be melted, the metal sold and a zoo to be built with that money,” he said in his Sun­day morn­ing ser­mon.

“The zoo was built on that money, on that sin and there­fore it can’t flour­ish on that place. It must be re­lo­cated to a dif­fer­ent place. A sin never re­mains with­out pun­ish­ment,” he added.

Nino Gior­go­b­iani said res­cuers were air­lift­ing scores from flood­af­fected ar­eas af­ter the heavy rain­fall also caused a land­slide on the Tskneti-Be­ta­nia road out­side the cap­i­tal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.