Tbilisi Flooding Sets Zoo Animals on the Loose

A man directs a hippopotamus after it was shot with a tranquilizer dart on a flooded street in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 14, 2015. Beso Gulashvili/Reuters

A zoo's-worth of animals are roaming the streets of Georgia's capital after flooding destroyed their enclosures on Sunday, allowing them to escape. The flooding, which officials are calling the worst natural disaster in recent memory, has killed at least 12 people, including three zoo workers.

The situations is hectic: As rescuers use rafts and inflatable boats to relieve those trapped by the flooding, authorities are asking people to stay inside while they catch the wildlife. Lions, tigers and bears may be among the animals still on the loose.

Some residents cannot help but watch the majestic creatures wander their town. A hippopotamus, for instance, was standing outside a Swatch store before it was shot with a tranquilizer dart.

A hippo and other animals escape from a flooded zoo in Tbilisi on June 14, 2015. AFP Photos / Beso Gulashvili pic.twitter.com/phM5Lm960M

— AFP News Agency (@AFP) June 14, 2015

It is unclear how many animals perished in the flooding, or have yet to be caught. Authorities have shot and killed at least a lion, a bear and a hyena. Six of the zoo's 17 penguins were saved, while the rest washed away.

According to the Interfax news agency, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church blamed the zoo disaster on Georgia's former communist rulers.

"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," Patriarch Ilia II said at a sermon on Sunday. "The sin will not go without punishment."