The FINANCIAL — On 13 June floods in Tbilisi resulted in the deaths of 19, while three people still remain missing. Over 80 families have lost their homes. Much of the city’s infrastructure, roads, as well as Tbilisi Zoo, have been fully destroyed, amounting to damage worth more than GEL 100 million. The State Treasury has amassed just GEL 17 million as of 19 June. GEL 10 million has been allocated from the state reserve fund; the rest has been gathered from donations.
As well as the ten million Lari allocated by the Government, GEL 200,000 was taken from the President’s reserve fund, and 150,000 from the Government’s reserve fund. This will be put towards compensation for the families of those who died. The EU Commission will also contribute up to EUR 3 million, which is to provide housing solutions following the damage.
“The damage is very large. Perhaps even GEL 100 million will not be sufficient for the full extent of the recovery works. Restoration of the Zoo alone will require tens of millions,” said Nodar Khaduri, Minister of Finance of Georgia. In his words, the Government has suspended submitting its draft budget to Parliament since the incident occurred. “We will have to adjust the budget to the existing reality now,” said Khaduri.
The River Vere, normally a small western tributary to the Mtkvari river, a main water artery of Tbilisi, suddenly had to cope with a major fall of rain, and couldn’t. According to the Ministry of Environment Protection of Georgia, after heavy rain and hail, which started around 10 o’clock on the evening of 13 June and continued for several hours, a landslide carrying 1 million cubic meters of land and mud careered down the hillside and into the Vere River valley, near Akhaldaba village, about 20km from the capital Tbilisi.
The mudflow flooded the riverbed, causing a natural dam to form. Soon after, the water level quickly rose and the water mass broke the dam, sending a huge torrent of water crashing towards Tbilisi.
Destruction of Tbilisi Zoo the Main Concern of the International Community
The Tbilisi flood drew international attention mainly because of how the flood destroyed Tbilisi Zoo. Images of a hippopotamus looking dazed after being tranquilized while standing in the middle of a major city, a frightened bear sitting on an air conditioning unit on the second floor of a building, and piles of dead animals – have been shown around the world.
The Zoo lost about half of its 600 animals, including lions, tigers, bears and wolves, in the natural disaster.
Some animals have since been recaptured. Others died in the floods or have been killed by police as they scour the streets for escapees. Video from the city showed a hippopotamus standing in floodwaters, looking confused.
The Zoo’s administration has begged citizens not to kill any animal in the event of finding one somewhere, but to call them instead. However, besides the animals killed in the aftermath of the natural disaster, many were found dead in their cages at the Zoo. Among the casualties was one of the most beloved and popular animals – a white lion named Shumba. Shumba was shot in the head when found in the territory of the Zoo. Many people saw no excuse for it and were left completely appalled. Meanwhile, others claimed that the animals were posing a threat to human lives, and this was the last thing that needed to be worried about due to the many people that had already died.
On 17 June police shot and killed a white tiger that had mauled a man to death. The tiger attack happened at a warehouse in the city centre. The animal had been unaccounted for since the weekend floods destroyed the Zoo’s premises. The man killed, who was 43, had worked at a company based in the warehouse.
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili apologized to the public, saying he had been misinformed by the Zoo’s management when he had previously said that there were no more dangerous animals on the run.
According to official information, both a tiger and a hyena are still missing from the Zoo.
Companies Destroyed by the Flooding
The natural disaster has damaged various Georgian companies: meat production company “Vake”; distribution company “Eliz”; restaurant “Matrioshka”; accessories companies Swatch and Art Time, the Georgian-American school “School of the Future”; and entertainment centre “Happy Lounge”.
Out of five warehouses in the area, three were completely flooded. One was just partially damaged, while the last one was completely undamaged,” said Temur Nadirashvili, Director of the distribution company Eliz.
“The bottom floor has been completely covered in sand. Cleaning up processes are still underway. The full extent of the damage has not yet been assessed. Representatives of the Revenue Service will census products, as they are excised goods. The company plans to continue with operations according to plan. If necessary we will borrow money from the bank,” said Nadirashvili.
Restaurant Matrioshka, located on Hero Square, at the epicentre of the disaster, has been particularly damaged. Both storeys of the restaurant are completely flooded. In addition, the company lost an employee in the tragedy. A kitchen worker died during the flood.
“The damage has been too great. We are not counting the lost, but rather the remaining inventory,” said Manana Eloshvili, Director at Matrioshka.
According to Levan Chkhaidze, Director of the meat production company Vake, finished products, as well as raw materials, have been fully destroyed. In his words, the loss amounts to millions.
Hundreds of Volunteers Turn Out to Help their City
The Georgian people have responded to the disaster admirably. Thousands of volunteers have come to Tbilisi to help with the recovery. They have shovelled mud and raised money to help the victims of the flood. One volunteer, 23-year-old Kote Mikadze, described the volunteer work as follows: “Our main mission now is to clean the flooded areas that are full of mud and debris. I am working in the territory of the zoo”. Nina, 19, said that she couldn’t just sit at home and watch everything on the TV. “This is our city and I feel obliged to be here right now,” she said.
Georgian companies from various sectors have been donating hundreds of thousands to a specially opened account. The President of National Bank of Georgia has promised to bring relief to those bank borrowers affected by the flooding.
Despite the tragedy of the event, the 13 June flooding has revealed an unprecedented display of unity from the nation, one that is standing together to rebuild its city.