Lions roamed the streets, a hippopotamus grazed from a tree in a central square and a bear was left crouching on a first-floor window sill.
These were the extraordinary scenes yesterday after a flash flood tore through the centre of Tbilisi in Georgia, killing at least a dozen people and devastating the city zoo.
Dangerous beasts fled from their ruined pens and cages as millions of tonnes of water, mud and debris sluiced through the streets.
At least 20 wolves, eight lions, six tigers and several jaguars and bears were killed by the flood or escaped into the chaos, after the Vere River overflowed following heavy rain and high winds. City authorities said they were looking for 32 predators. Residents were warned to stay home as police with rifles and helicopters tracked down the wayward animals.
"Our favourite lion, Shumba, was just killed by the emergency forces," said Mzia Sharashidze, a spokesman for the city zoo. "We don't know how many animals are missing."
Six wolves were reportedly shot dead in a yard at an infectious diseases hospital, while a hyena was shot after it chased a university guard.
The errant hippopotamus was subdued with a tranquilliser dart as it chewed on a tree near Heroes' Square.
Television pictures showed the mud-slicked beast ambling down a street with leaves poking from its mouth as locals guided it back to an enclosure by leaning on its rump.
Three out of 17 penguins from the zoo were also rescued and two bear cubs were discovered in a garden.
Another bear was pictured dead among debris in photographs from the city.
There were no reports of animal attacks but the death toll was expected to rise, with at least 24 people missing.
Giorgi Margvelashvili, Georgia's president, expressed his sympathies to the victims as he visited the affected area to observe the clean-up operation. (© Daily Telegraph, London)