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World - Residents of an apartment building in western Germany have been unable to return to their homes for the third consecutive day after a venomous snake was sighted in the building.

On Tuesday, the town of Herne in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia said that the missing snake was "in all likelihood" still somewhere in the apartment building, citing reptile experts.

The town believes that the snake belongs to a young man who had been keeping around 20 venomous snakes in his flat.

"Our hope that the sighted snake could be with the other animals seized yesterday has been dashed," said Johannes Chudziak, the head of Herne's administrative office. Experts had previously said the escaped snake may have returned to its terrarium on its own.

The escaped snake is a monocled cobra, which are extremely venomous - if bitten, a person can die within minutes.

The cobra was sighted by a resident in the block of flats on Sunday.

After the police were informed, all 30 residents of the flats were evacuated. The remaining 20 snakes were seized on Monday, and the owner has been banned from keeping the snakes any more. He denies the missing reptile is his.

Officials in Herne told people living close to the apartment complex to be more careful than usual when walking around the area. If anyone sees the snake, they should call police immediately.

A specialist company has now been employed to help locate the snake. Reptile experts have so far scattered flour in the building, in order to see any tracks the cobra may have left - so far without success.

IOL