Bisra Maidan, which played host to luminaries like Indira Gandhi, A B Vajpayee and L K Advani in the past, was on Saturday besieged by uninvited guests -- a herd of wild elephants, striking panic in the steel city.
The 11-strong herd, comprising four females, three males and four calves, which had stayed for the last couple of days near Bisra Rehabilitation and Settlement (RS) Colony, started the march towards Rourkela ciry in the wee hours.
The stretch between Rourkela-Bisra is about 21 km with vast unoccupied expanses and the jumbos covered it in no time. The residents of RS Colony say they saw the herd moving from their habitation in the wee hours.
The pachyderms did not harm anybody, but damaged a wall, a few kiosks and three auto rickshaws before crossing the Ring Road, sources said. As a precautionary measure, all the gates of the stadium were closed. “We were lucky that by that time, the first sign of daybreak was visible and the herd generally does not move during day time”, said a forest official.
“First, we closed the gates,” said a police official, adding food items like banana and mango were thrown towards them. Gradually, large branches of mango and banyan trees were brought for the jumbos.
“We are planning to start the process of evacuation during night. For that, the preparation is being made”, said the DFO. The forest officials managed to confine the pachyderms at the Birsa Munda stadium even as the Sundargarh district administration continues to be on tenterhooks to allow safe passage to them.
Reports said a drive was undertaken on Friday night after the herd damaged three houses at RS Colony. When the forest officials tried to guide the jumbos towards Bondamunda reserve forest, the herd turned towards Durgapur RF.
The elephants travelled through the saw mill of the OFDC at Sector-21 at about 1.30 am and an hour later, taking the Ring Road, crossed the railway over-bridge. At around 3.30 am, the pachyderms were spotted roaming near Bisra Square.