Escaped hippopotamus
Escaped hippopotamusScreenshot

The Georgian capital of Tbilisi, home to about 1.1 million people, has turned into the set of a nightmare after a lethal flood on Sunday turned wild animals free to run rampant in the city, as residents were warned to stay locked at home as the hungry beasts are liable to attack.

The flooding, which began Saturday evening, has killed over 12 people as it turned the Vere River into a raging torrent. The Tbilisi Zoo is situated on the banks of the river, and as a result of the flood the animals have been turned loose.

Footage from Sunday included in the coverage of the UK's Daily Mail reveals the unreal situation on the ground in Tbilisi.

As the river overran its banks and flooded the zoo, three zoo workers died as they tried to save the animals from the incoming deluge.

Zoo spokeswoman Mzia Sharashidze said that tigers, hyenas and eight lions were among the missing animals. She added that six of 17 penguins were rescued while the rest washed away in the flood.

One crocodile was recaptured and zoo workers were trying to capture another of the dangerous reptiles on Sunday afternoon. Other escaped animals include wolves, bears, and a hippopotamus.

The hippo, an enormous and temperamental beast that is highly dangerous, swam out of its enclosure and made its way to the central Heroes' Square in the city, where it stood around and grazed on leaves before being shot with a tranquilizer dart and returned to the zoo.

The terror of the wild animals roaming the streets was seen most palpably at Tbilisi State University, located on a hill above the zoo.

On campus a hyena chased a security guard through a park on Sunday morning; the man was able to escape the ravenous animal and lock himself in a shed, from where he called police who came and shot the hyena to death. At least one lion and one bear have likewise been shot by police.

Amid the mayhem, Georgian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Ilia II blamed the former Communist regime for bringing the disaster, reports the Interfax news agency.

"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," he said. "The sin will not go without punishment."