Panic gripped villages located in Jashipur, Karanjia and Sukruli blocks of Mayurbhanj district after a herd of 16 elephants wreaked havoc in the area on Saturday.
Elephants turned violent and went berserk in several villages of the region after consuming handia (a country brew made out of rice). They destroyed 10 houses besides properties worth a few lakhs of rupees and crop.
The herd which included five tuskers, eight female elephants and three calves strayed into the area from nearby forest on Friday evening and first destroyed the house of Kailash Pingua of Deuli village.
A villager Madhu Pingua said they then went on a searching spree and devoured paddy stocked in five houses after breaking their walls. Scared of elephants, the villagers spent the night in their relatives’ houses. Villagers said the elephants started behaving violently after they raided a house where handia was stocked and drank it. Fed up, the villagers took it upon themselves and tried to chase the elephants towards the forest by beating drums and burning tyres. But the elephants remained unmoved.
The herd is currently roaming around the villages located near Dari forest.
A few months back, a group of tuskers went on a rampage in these villages and this herd is believed to be part of the same group that had killed three persons. While some villagers have abandoned their houses fearing elephant attack and are spending the nights on tree tops, others are guarding their houses by burning tyres. Former MLA Sambhunath Naik visited the affected villagers and urged the forest officials to provide them compensation. Wildlife lovers claimed that massive deforestation, poaching and people taking over forest areas have forced the elephants to move out of their natural habitat in search of food and water.
Forest officials said the situation was being monitored and necessary steps had been taken to deal with the problem.
DFO Ashish Behera said forest guards and trained youths had been engaged to drive away the menacing elephants. “The damage assessment is underway and the victims will be compensated as per provisions,” he added.