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GUANGZHOU - An unknown number of crocodiles remained at large on Thursday after a flood set them free from a slaughter farm in South China's Guangdong province, local authorities said.
Villagers and rescuers have been on high alert since the escape at a crocodile farm in Longtian Township in the city of Shantou, caused by a rain-triggered flood last Saturday which damaged their enclosure.
Farm workers said dozens of reptiles have probably fled into flooded rivers and swamped farms. As of Thursday evening, 27 crocodiles had been captured but others remained unaccounted for.
"Runaway crocodiles are very dangerous. We are very nervous that they may hurt people," said Zhou Minghui, general manager of Shantou Xiesheng Breeding Co. Ltd that operates the farm.
The 11-hectare farm raises 11,000 crocodiles for slaughter, producing meat products and advertising them for their alleged health benefits.
Police and villagers have been mobilized to hunt for the missing beasts, officials at the township government said, adding that no casualties have been reported so far.
Crocodile flesh is considered a delicacy with medical benefits in some southern Chinese provinces, including Guangdong.