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Dozens of crocodiles escape after heavy floods in Chinese city

A Chinese city has launched an operation to find a large number of crocodiles that escaped when floods hit the region in recent days, authorities said Tuesday.

A typhoon brought sustained heavy rains to southern China last week, triggering inundations in Hong Kong and other areas. Last week, high waters swept a fire truck into a river in southeast China early Tuesday, leaving five crew members missing.

Deluges around the city of Maoming in Guangdong province caused a lake at a commercial crocodile farm to overflow with over 70 animals escaping, local media reported.

A person who answered the phone at the local emergency management office told AFP on Tuesday that officials were "working to deal with" the reptilian runaways. The person did not say how many animals were still on the loose.

Some of the crocodiles had been recaptured by Tuesday, according to state-run The Paper, citing an anonymous local staff member. That employee said that there had been no reports of crocodile attacks or injuries.

A video published by the state-backed Beijing News showed responders in red uniforms searching flooded fields in rescue boats. Further images showed several two-meter-long scaly beasts lying on the road, their fearsome jaws bound tight with red tape.

"Crocodiles are still in the water, and several government departments are working to catch them," the state-affiliated China National Radio (CNR) reported, citing the local agriculture bureau.

"The specific situation is still under investigation... (including) the specific number of crocodiles," CNR said.

Crocodiles are bred in China for their skin as well as their meat, which is sometimes used in traditional medicine.

Crocodile Culture in Zhangye, China
Crocodiles play in the water at the crocodile breeding area of an aquaculture base in Zhangye city, Gansu province, China, July 28, 2023. CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images

The stricken area is also home to a "crocodile theme park" and "the country's largest crocodile breeding base", according to CNR.

"Crocs are bloodthirsty animals -- they'd definitely bite people," wrote one concerned user on the Weibo social media platform.

"Don't worry, they'll leave you alone once they've eaten you," another joked.

In recent months, China has had some of its heaviest rains and deadliest flooding in years. Dozens of people have been killed, including in outlying mountainous parts of the capital, Beijing.

It's not uncommon for wildlife — including alligators and snakes — to be found in floodwaters after powerful storms.

In 2021, a 504-pound alligator believed to have attacked a Louisiana man in Hurricane Ida floodwaters was captured and killed, and authorities found human remains in its stomach.

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