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Search On for People, Zoo Animals Missing in Georgia Flood

A destroyed flooded zoo area is seen in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 15, 2015.

Rescue workers in the Georgian capital were still searching Monday for more than 20 people and an undetermined number of potentially dangerous animals missing after severe flooding ravaged the area around the zoo and left at least 12 people dead.

None of the people who died was killed by the zoo animals that ran off after the floodwaters destroyed their enclosures, Tbilisi zoo director Zurab Gurielidze said. Three zoo employees were among those who drowned.

Among the animals that fled the flooded zoo were lions, tigers, bears, wolves, a hippopotamus and one jaguar. Some, including the hippopotamus, were tranquilized and returned to the zoo. Others were shot by police, while more remain missing.

Zoo spokeswoman Khatia Basilashvili said four lions, three tigers and two jaguars were killed either in the flood or when on the loose, while the fate of four lions, three tigers and one jaguar was not yet known.

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The flooding also killed about 60 homeless dogs when the waters inundated a shelter near the zoo, shelter staff said.

Heavy rain early Sunday caused a landslide that blocked what is normally a pleasant stream in the hilly city, but as the floodwaters grew in strength, the fierce torrent broke through. The raging waters swept through the zoo, gouged huge chunks out of roads and swamped numerous houses. The homes of about 40 families were destroyed.

Cleaning up

The Georgian government declared Monday a day off from work and school while the search for the missing and the cleanup work went ahead in Tbilisi, a city of 1.1 million people.

A young white lion named Shumba, one of the zoo's most beloved attractions, was found Sunday shot in the head on zoo territory, said Gurielidze, the zoo director.

He demanded an investigation into the shootings of zoo animals. "If a predator attacked a person, then it's understandable, but there are cases that need looking into,'' Gurielidze said.