Europe

Georgia flood: 'Up to 20' missing as Tbilisi cleans up

Volunteers clean debris at the zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 15 June 2015. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hundreds of people are taking part in the clean up operation in the Georgian capital

Up to 20 people are missing after a deadly flood swept through Georgia's capital Tbilisi, officials say, with some zoo animals still on the loose.

As a clean-up operation began on Monday, they said the death toll rose to 13, including three zoo employees.

The disaster has left dozens of families homeless and caused disruption to the city's main infrastructure.

Heavy rains caused the River Vere - normally little more than a stream - to burst its banks and flood the capital.

Raging floodwaters rose to the rooftops of enclosures at the zoo, drowning hundreds of animals and sweeping many out of their enclosures.

Some Georgians have been angered over reports that some of the zoo animals were shot dead after escaping from the zoo.

'Screaming for help'

As the search for survivors continued on Monday, an elderly man was pulled out from inside the rubble of his destroyed house, government spokeswoman Manana Tokmajishvili said.

One resident, Aleko Korkotashvili, told AFP: "I saw a man clutching at a lamp pole in the middle of a violent torrent. He was screaming, asking for help, but we were unable to help him."

Tbilisi zoo director Zurab Gurielidze said that of the three people found dead inside the zoo on Sunday none had been killed by animals.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Flooding has caused to chaos to Tbilisi's roads and local infrastructure

As many as 300 animals are believed to have died in the flooding, zoo officials said, adding that a number of lions, tigers and jaguars remained on the loose.

Many Georgians have been venting their anger on social media over the killing of one of the zoo's favourites - a white lion cub called Shumba - who was found killed near its zoo den, reports BBC Monitoring's Marica Knezevic.

However, the zoo's director told Rustavi-2 there was no official order to kill the animals.

Two bear cubs were reportedly found alive several miles away from the zoo on Monday, and returned to their enclosures.

A bear found clinging to an air-conditioning unit of a building and a hyena discovered on someone's balcony were both recaptured on Sunday. A hippopotamus was also cornered in one of the city's main squares and subdued with a tranquiliser gun.

Recovery operation

Hundreds of people, who were granted the day off work and school, joined the clean-up operation that commenced on Monday - also a national day of mourning.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A hippopotamus called Begi escaped the zoo on Sunday, but was later recaptured
Image copyright AP
Image caption The rising floodwaters swept through the zoo's enclosures, drowning many animals

Thousands of people have been left without water and electricity while others have had to be airlifted to safety.

Roads have been destroyed, and small houses and cars swept away.

Coffins in a city cemetery were reportedly washed out of the ground and left lying on the mud.

Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri warns the damage cost could be higher than the original estimate of $15m (€13m), according to the AFP news agency.

In May 2012, five people were killed in Tbilisi after another river flooded.

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