The Tbilisi Flood Brings a Wave of Volunteers

Tbilisi, Georgia -- The recent flood in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, drew international attention mostly because the flood destroyed the Tbilisi Zoo. Images of a hippopotamus looking dazed after being tranquilized in the middle of a big city, frightened bears seeking safety or dead animals have been shown around the world. For the first hours after the flooding, residents of Tbilisi had to be on the lookout for lions and tigers in the streets. On my way back to write this article at the apartment where I am staying near downtown Tbilisi, my host texted me to tell me to take a taxi as a tiger had been spotted near the pubic square next to their apartment. One Georgian politician told me, only half in jest, that the city should make the hippopotamus its new mascot. Many in Georgia are indeed dismayed at seeing their zoo destroyed. I took my own children there many years ago when they were younger and we lived in Tbilisi, but the strange story and compelling visuals of animals should not obscure the human dimension of this tragedy as some have already lost their lives and many others have lost their homes or place of work.