BHUBANESWAR: two elephants were killed after being hit by a parcel van near Mahipani in Sundargarh district in the wee hours of Thursday.
Sources said the mishap took place at about 1.30 am when an elephant herd was crossing the railway tracks and the speeding train hit two female jumbos on the Down line between Bhalulata-Jaraikela under South Eastern Railway (SER) division.
While one elephant was found lying in between Up and Down line, another elephant got entangled with train after it came under the eighth coach from engine. All four wheels of the front trolley of the parcel van (next to the engine) got derailed after hitting the elephants.
Forest officials blamed the loco pilot for the tragic death of the elephants. They alleged that though railways was intimated about the movement of an elephant herd, the train was running at a high speed when it hit the elephants.
Such was the speed of the train that one of the adult female elephants was dragged by the train for nearly 200 metre on the track. Another five-year-old elephant that fell outside the track after being hit by the train also succumbed to injuries hours after it was rescued, they said.
At around 1.24 am, the information about presence of the elephant herd near the track was updated on the elephant monitoring app. The efforts, however, went in vain as the speeding train hit the pachyderms 10 minutes later.
“Around 30 forest staffers were monitoring the elephant herd when it was crossing the railway track. Though caution order was issued on Wednesday evening about movement of the herd near the track, the train moved at a very high speed,” said in-charge PCCF (Wildlife) Shashi Paul.
The incident triggered a blame game as the railway officials claimed the caution order did not mention about the speed restriction and the alert was for sharp lookout and blowing long whistle, which the loco pilot followed.
Senior divisional commercial manager of Chakradharpur, Manish Pathak, said it is insensitive to play the blame game at the death of elephants. The train was running at 80 kmph when the driver applied the brake on seeing the elephants. A probe by a four-member team of officials has been ordered and a meeting
between the divisional railway manager and PCCF has been fixed on February 8 for better coordination, he added.
Paul said Rourkela RCCF Bhanja Kishore Swain has submitted a preliminary investigation report, as per which a case will be registered and action taken. Last December, speeding trains had killed two elephants on the 33-km Jujumara-Haribari railway track in the Sambalpur Sadar forest range.