5 elephants run over by train in Odisha

Onlookers gather around an elephant that was killed by a passenger train in the Rambha forest area, about 180 kilometers (110 miles) south of Bhubaneshwar, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. A passenger train has plowed into and killed five elephants of a herd crossing railroad tracks in eastern India. Dozens of elephants have died in India in recent years after being struck while crossing railroad tracks that often run through national parks and forests. (AP Photo)Five wild elephants were killed when the Howrah-Chennai super fast Coromandel Express rammed into an herd of elephants at Subala near Rambha in southern Odisha’s Ganjam district on Saturday night.

Train services were affected in the sector for a few hours because of the mishap.

The express train heading for Chennai was in high speed when the accident occurred. The impact was so severe that the pachyderms were dragged on the track for almost a kilometre.

A couple of elephants were cut into pieces. The killed elephants include a baby and a pregnant one.

A contractual labourer working for a private company engaged by the railways also killed in the mishap. Preliminary investigation suggested that the man was standing near the door of a compartment of the express train and was thrown out under the impact of the accident and died. However, no other passengers of the super fast express received any injuries in the mishap.

A blame game has already begun between the East Coast Railways authorities and the state forest department officials over the tragic incident. According to Forest Department officials, the local railway authorities had already been alerted about the movement of the elephant herd in the area.

But no instruction was given to the express train driver to go slow and be watchful. “Our officials had already informed the railway authorities about the movement of the elephant herd but no step was taken to avoid the mishap,” said the state forest and environment minister Bijayshree Routray.

The allegation, however, has been strongly refuted by the East Coast Railway authorities. “The accident occurred at 12.45 am and the information was conveyed to us around the same time. The accident could have been avoided had we received the information early,” said R N Mohapatra, the chief public relations officer of the East Coast Railways.

One elephant was killed in a similar train mishap at the same place four months ago. The area was known as an elephant crossing zone. A sign board had already been put near the track highlighting this for the benefit of the train drivers, a forest department official said. Minister Routray said he would be holding a meeting with the railway officials soon on the issue.

“If they will not cooperate with us then I will convey the matter to the chief minister and request him to take it up with the railway ministry at the Centre,” he added.

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