The southern Chinese city of Maoming has urged residents to stay away from bodies of water as it struggles to locate and capture dozens of crocodiles that fled a farm during weekend flooding.
The Siamese crocodiles, including 69 adults and 6 babies, were confirmed to be missing after about four months worth of rain pelted the subtropical city on Saturday and Sunday. Parts of Maoming, in Guangdong province, were submerged in up to 3.3 feet of floodwater from back-to-back typhoons.
Authorities are "trying to keep things under control, but the number of escaped crocodiles is a bit too many," state-run Dazhong Daily cited the district emergency management bureau in saying.
Residents in the city's southern Maonan district, a major freshwater aquaculture base that housed the crocodile farm, have been told to stay vigilant and avoid going out, especially keeping away from rivers, lakes and reservoirs, the newspaper reported.
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-metre-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.
Police, firefighters and emergency responders with underwater sonar equipment have been mobilized for the search, and multiple teams are patrolling on motorboats, yet "we are not quite sure where they are," the officer said, adding that there were no casualty reports as of Tuesday morning.
Paramilitary forces stationed in the area have received orders to shoot dead any crocodile that emerges from the deep-water zone, Southern Metropolis Daily reported, which also cited villagers who visited the farm in saying the smallest adult crocodiles there weigh at least 220 pounds. Warning signs have been set up around the perimeter of the inundated farms and cropland, the newspaper reported.
Maoming and the broader Guangdong province have been battered by two typhoons in two weeks, with Saola and Haikui wreaking havoc across Taiwan and southern China. Landslides caused by extreme downpours Sunday and Monday have killed at least seven people in the neighboring Guangxi region, state media reported Tuesday. Hong Kong's streets turned to rivers last week, as a quarter of all the rainfall expected for a year fell in 24 hours.
Maoming has some of the country's largest crocodile farms, with crocodile skin manufacturing facilities in nearby cities. Crocodile meat is also a local delicacy.