HONG KONG — As the heavy rain started to ease, residents in southern China were warned of a surprising danger lurking in the floodwaters: dozens of escaped crocodiles.
The reptiles were living in a commercial crocodile farm in the city of Maoming, in the southern province of Guangdong, when a fierce rainstorm inundated the area over the weekend and caused a lake to overflow, allowing them to escape.
Authorities confirmed that 69 adult crocodiles and six juveniles had been on the loose in the lake, according to state-run Haibao News. The local emergency department warned residents to stay home, saying that everything was under control but there were too many crocodiles in the lake, it added.
As of Tuesday morning (Monday night ET), some crocodiles had been recaptured, according to state-run The Paper, citing an anonymous local staff member in the duty room.
No injuries have been reported and no official statement has been issued.
Videos circulating on Chinese social media appeared to show crocodiles swimming in floodwaters, occasionally with their heads halfway out of the water. Some videos also include clear location signs — “To Maoming” and “To Xibu Expressway.”
Footage posted Tuesday suggested some crocodiles had been caught and tied up with red ropes to prevent them from hurting people.
The crocodiles made headlines across Chinese social media, with relevant topics attracting millions of views. Some netizens on Weibo, China’s equivalent of X, formerly known as Twitter, said that the scene resembled an American horror film, Crawl.
Maoming Emergency Management Bureau declined NBC News’ request for further information over the phone and didn’t immediately respond to requests by email.
In China, crocodile meat is highly valued for its medical benefits. The trade of crocodiles is not prohibited in Chinese law, although there are some illegal farms in the country, according to state media.
Crocodile meat is a delicacy in Maoming, which has some large and famous commercial crocodile farms. Surrounding Guangdong province is also a major consumer of the crocodile meat.
It is not the first time that crocodiles escaped from farms in the city. In 2013, six juvenile crocodiles were running loose after flooding, four of which were caught and two eaten by local villagers, according to state media.
Similar cases also happened in other provinces. In Yibin, in the southern province of Sichuan, a villager reported to police in May 2022 that six crocodiles he owned had gone missing.
Typhoon Haikui brought record-breaking torrential rain to southern China and Hong Kong last week, causing widespread flooding in many cities.
Landslides triggered by the monsoon killed at least seven people in the neighboring province of Guangxi, state media reported Tuesday.