IMAGE: Crocodiles on farm
Le Ba Duong  /  AP
These are among the nearly 5,000 crocodiles at a farm in Vietnam's Khanh Hoa province that didn't escape over the weekend, but hundreds of others are thought to have been swept away by flooding.
updated 11/13/2007 8:05:55 AM ET 2007-11-13T13:05:55

Soldiers, militiamen and local residents searched Tuesday for hundreds of crocodiles on the loose in central Vietnam after they escaped from a farm during heavy floods.

Sixty-seven crocodiles have already been captured or killed, but an unknown number continue to pose a danger to villagers in Khanh Hoa province, said Nguyen Nhu Long of the provincial military command.

"We have sent in more soldiers to search for the animals because we are worried that they may crawl into people's houses in search of food," Long said. "They haven't been fed for several days now."

The reptiles escaped at the weekend when flood waters knocked down a fence surrounding the state-owned Khanh Viet Farm, a popular tourist attraction that housed 5,000 crocodiles.

Several hundred people live in the immediate area of the farm.

The crocodiles escaped into a stream that passes the farm and then joins a river flowing through several villages.

"We have warned the villagers to be careful and asked them to call the authorities if they spot any crocodiles," said Khanh Hoa province's governor, Vo Lam Phi.

Soldiers wielding AK-47 assault rifles shot dead 11 crocodiles as they crawled up a river bank on Monday, Long said, and villagers killed four others.

"Each of them weighed from 200 kilograms to 250 kilograms (440 to 550 pounds), and it took seven or eight people to carry their dead bodies away," Long said.

Vietnam has more than 100,000 farmed crocodiles, which are raised for their skin and meat, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Owners of the Khanh Viet Farm have offered a reward of up to $100 to anyone who returns one of the missing reptiles, which the company exports to several countries, including Japan and Australia.

"It's a very good business," said company spokesman Le Tien Anh. "We were planning to expand the farm to 10,000 crocodiles next year."

Heavy rains triggered the weekend flooding that killed 29 people in central Vietnam, disaster officials said. Floods and typhoons have killed 215 people across central and northern Vietnam since early October.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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