At least 12 dead as tigers and lions roam Tbilisi after floods

Heavy flooding in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, has killed at least 12 people, with officials warning people to stay indoors to avoid animals that have escaped from a zoo, the BBC reports.

The missing animals include tigers, lions, bears and wolves. Three of the dead people were found within the zoo.

A hippopotamus was cornered in one of the city’s main squares and subdued with a tranquiliser gun.

Rescue workers are searching submerged homes to check for trapped residents.

Dozens of people have been left homeless.

Tbilisi Zoo spokeswoman Mzia Sharashidze told the InterPressNews agency that three bodies had been found in the zoo, including those of two employees.

She said the grounds had been turned into “a hellish whirlpool”.

Ms Sharashidze said that 20 wolves, eight lions and an unknown number of tigers, jackals and jaguars had been shot dead by special forces or were missing.

The bodies of a lion and a pony lay near the zoo.

The flooding began when heavy rains caused the River Vere – normally little more than a stream – to burst its banks.

Thousands of people have been left without water and electricity while others have had to be airlifted to safety.

Mayor Davit Narmania said the situation was “very grave”.

Several main roads have been destroyed while small houses and cars were swept away.

Coffins in a city cemetery have reportedly been washed out of the ground and left lying on the mud.

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has called on residents to stay indoors until the animals have been found.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili has visited affected area and extended his condolences to relatives of the victims.

It remains unclear how many are animals missing. Helicopters are circling the city as part of a search and rescue operation.

Vice-mayor Irakly Lekvinadze estimated the preliminary damage at $10m.

Armenia’s Gyumri establishes friendly-city relationship with Xi’an, China

Xi’an city, capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province established on Monday a friendly-city relationship with Gyumri, the second largest city in Armenia, with an eye to more in-depth cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, Xinhua reports.

Dong Jun, mayor of Xi’an, attended the ceremony in Gyumri Monday marking the signing the friendly city agreement as well as that on trade and economic cooperation, along with the Mayor of Gyumri Samvel Balasanyan, and the Governor of Shirak region, Felix Tzolakyan.

The two sides expressed the wish to expand bilateral cooperation in all possible spheres, including trade and economy, tourism, culture, and high-tech.

Xi’an and Gyumri are both located along the ancient Silk Road. Xi’an, as the starting point of the Silk Road, is not just a major transport hub linking China’s east with its west, but also the biggest city in the China section of the new Eurasian Continental Bridge. In his keynote speech at the Xi’an-Gyumri Economic and Trade Forum Monday evening, the mayor of Xi’an called for the establishment of various cooperation platforms between the two cities, to promote the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visited Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October of 2013.

The Initiative refers to creating the modern Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road to boost international trade and expand global economic ties. The Belt and Road routes run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other.

Recalling Gyumri’s role along the ancient Silk Road, Balasanyan said he would like to see a revival of Armenia in the modern Silk Road Economic Belt.

The Xi’an delegation also visited Monday Gyumri’s Technological Park.

Gyumri, with a population of 146,000, is also a cultural capital of Armenia.

Czech Airlines may launch direct flights between Yerevan and Prague

On a visit to Prague, Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan had a meeting with the President of the Board of Directors of the Czech Airlines Jozef Sinčák.

The interlocutors discussed the issue of re-launching the direct flights between Yerevan and Prague. Jozef Sinčák said they have just completed the privatization of the company and are willing to discuss the opportunity of re-launching the direct flights.

PM Abrahamyan stressed the necessity of direct flights and noted that it will contribute to the development of tourism and the reinforcement of Armenian-Czech friendship.

The parties agreed to organize the visit of the leadership of the Czech Airlines to Armenia to discuss the perspectives of starting Yerevan-Prague flights in more detail.

Turkey’s Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party to seek recognition of the Armenian Genocide

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) of Turkey will seek soonest normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations and recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, in case it succeeds in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, Vice-President of the Party Nazmi Gur told RIA Novosti.

Twenty parties are running for Parliament in the June 7 elections, four of them having a real chance to clear the 10 percent threshold. Survey results suggest that 41% are going to vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party.

The Republican People’s Party can count for 29 percent of the votes. The Nationalist Movement Party and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party are likely to receive 14 and 11 percent respectively.

“We stand for implementation of the protocols on the normalization of relations of Armenia and the opening of the shared border. The Turkish-Armenian relations should not be linked to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. It’s a question of the Armenian and Azerbaijani nations, which should be solved through negotiations. We also stand for the recognition of the genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire,” Gur said.

French Sarcelles and Artsakh’s Martakert sign cooperation agreement

On 20 May Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan visited the town of Sarcelles and met there with the town authorities headed by mayor François Pupponi.

A cooperation agreement between the Sarcelles and Martakert towns was signed during the meeting.

President Sahakyan stressed that cooperation with various French towns and cities was of special importance for Artsakh, considering it a significant opportunity for urban development in our republic and deepening the Karabagh-France relationships.

EBRD brings modern street lighting to Armenia’s capital city

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing $4 million for a pilot project which will enable Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, to modernise its street lighting system by introducing new energy-efficient technologies.

The EBRD’s sovereign loan will be on-lent to the Street Lighting Company owned by the city of Yerevan. The loan is expected to be complemented by a capital grant of up to $2 million from the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership (E5P). Technical cooperation for project preparation was financed by the TaiwanBusiness-EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund and the EBRD’s own resources.

Yerevan has a population of 1.1 million, roughly one-third of the total population of Armenia, and the street lighting network consists of old, inefficient and environmentally polluting mercury-based lights. The heavy-metal based content of the current lighting system contributes to energy waste and is a considerable environmental hazard. Due to the antiquated condition of the current system and the high percentage of lights that are not working, large parts of the city are not sufficiently illuminated.

To overcome this problem the pilot project will introduce new energy-efficient LED lighting, a control and monitoring system, pole replacement and renovation as well as power cable replacement. This will result in better service quality and improved environmental standards due to reduced energy consumption and the minimisation of operating and maintenance costs. Lighter streets will also be safer for pedestrians and motorists alike.

Mark Davis, EBRD Head of Office in Yerevan, said: “We welcome this project and are pleased to support it with financial means as well as technical assistance. The new street lighting will contribute to Yerevan’s goal of reducing its CO2 emissions, while at the same time significantly reducing the city’s energy bill. In addition, the project will contribute to the comfort and safety of residents.”

Since the start of its operations in Armenia in 1992, the EBRD has invested over €900 million in more than 135 projects in the country’s financial, corporate, infrastructure and energy sectors, with 87 per cent of investments being in the private sector.

Artsakh proves resoluteness to determine its destiny in a democratic way

With the free and competitive elections held in Nagorno Karabakh on May 3 the people of Artsakh proved yet again their resoluteness to master their destiny in a democratic way, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in comments to Armenpress.

“Praiseworthy is the participation of more than 100 observers,” the Foreign Minister said, adding that “according to their assessment, the elections were well-organized and transparent and corresponded to international standards.