Georgia police in Tbilisi shoot tiger that killed man after zoo escape


Animal that escaped in Tbilisi after severe flooding is shot dead but officials say other animals might be on the loose

Police in Tbilisi say a tiger that broke loose after severe flooding at a zoo in the Georgian capital over the weekend has been shot by marksmen after it killed a man and wounded another..

It has now emerged that other animals may still be on the loose, amid conflicting statements from the government and zoo officials.

The man who died is believed to be in his 40s. The tiger reportedly attacked him around midday as he and two others entered a flood-damaged building near Tbilisi's central Heroes Square, a few hundred metres from the zoo.

It brings to 20 the number of people killed in the disaster, with most of the casualties residents of homes that were flooded by the sudden deluge on Saturday night. At least six people are still reported to be missing.

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Amid scenes of panic on Wednesday, police swarmed the area and officers from the "Special Tasks" department of Georgia's Interior Ministry surrounded the big cat inside a complex of repair garages and warehouses. Initial reports had said it was a lion.

About an hour and a half after the attack, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the rare white tiger had been "liquidated". The big cat was shot "as it tried to attack one of the officers", said another official. He added "they had no possibility of using a tranquilizer".

There has been controversy over the way the same special police unit reacted to the flooding at the zoo, with some workers saying that many animals were unnecessarily shot.

The government said its officers had done all they could to save the animals caught in the flood, but had to put the safety of Tbilisi residents first.

But there is now mounting alarm that at least two other big animals may still be on the loose in Tbilisi, four days after the flash flood.

On Tuesday, the head of the government's crisis management council, Mindia Janelidze, was quoted as saying all the zoo animals had been accounted for. But the zoo itself released a later statement saying it was still missing a tiger, as well as a bear and a hyena.

"Is it safe or not? We don't know what to believe," said one Tbilisi resident, who lives near the city centre.

At the time the tiger attacked, hundreds of young volunteers were helping to clear up the extensive flood damage in residential areas and a popular city park near the zoo.

There's been huge praise for the way people have rallied round to help, organising donations of clothing and other essentials as well as assisting with the clear-up effort.

But the crisis also shows signs of degenerating into a political fist-fight, with the current government and its predecessor both trying to blame the other for the disaster.