Tiger That Escaped the zoo Kills man

Big cat kills man after breaking free from enclosure during Georgia flood then hiding in warehouse for three days .

Published: 18th June 2015 08:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th June 2015 08:20 AM   |  A+A-

MOSCOW: A tiger that escaped from a zoo after a flash flood in Tbilisi mauled a man to death on Wednesday before it was shot by police marksmen.

Scores of animals, including a hippopotamus, eight lions, seven tigers, several bears and up to 20 wolves, escaped from their enclosures on Sunday after heavy rain and high winds caused a river in the Georgian capital to burst its banks.

Many of the animals were seen roaming the streets, but the authorities reassured residents earlier this week that all had perished, been rounded up or shot. The British Foreign Office issued a travel alert following the death, noting that two lions, one bear and one jaguar were still unaccounted for and that Tbilisi residents were being advised to stay inside.

However, the white tiger pounced on a man yesterday as he entered a warehouse where it had been hiding. The man died of his wounds. "We entered the depot and, suddenly, a white tiger rushed out of an adjacent room and attacked one of the workers, jumping at his throat and mauling him," said a colleague of the victim, Alexander Shavbulashvili. "We broke the window of another room to flee and the sound of breaking glass must have scared it and it ran away."

Initial reports suggested the dead man, said to be in his forties, was attacked by a lion but it was later confirmed to be a white or albino tiger.

Television pictures showed police marksmen sprinting through the streets after the attack near Heroes Square. The animal was "liquidated", according to the interior ministry. Its body was carried away on a stretcher.

Georgian media reported that before the animal was shot, an African student who was helping with the flood clear-up nearby offered to pacify the big cat. "Give me three minutes and I swear I'll send him to sleep," he was quoted as saying.

Irakli Garibashvili, the prime minister, issued a public apology for the death, claiming he had been misled by managers at the zoo when he announced on Monday that no dangerous animals remained alive.

The flood had already claimed 19 lives of people who drowned or were crushed by debris. Six people remain missing.

Three people died at the city zoo, where low-lying enclosures were washed away, although yesterday's death was the first to an animal attack.

There were extraordinary scenes on Sunday as Tbilisi residents herded a runaway hippopotamus back to the zoo after it was subdued with a tranquilliser dart. Rescue workers found a bear on a first-floor window sill, while two cubs were discovered in a garden. Border guards yesterday found a penguin near the frontier with Azerbaijan, 25 miles east of the capital. The zoo lost roughly half of its 300 animals in the flood, which destroyed or damaged dozens of homes.

Kakha Kaladze, the deputy prime minister, estimated the damage of the flood at $45?million (pounds 29?million). Volunteers have been collecting clothes for those left homeless and shovelling up debris, including in the area where the tiger attack took place.

Mr Garibashvili ordered Vakhtang Gomelauri, the interior minister, to check whether any of the zoo animals were still missing.


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