BHUBANESWAR: In yet another train hit incident, two female elephants of a nine-member herd were killed after a goods train reportedly dashed into them in Keonjhar district on Monday night. The accident took place under Brahmanipal range of Keonjhar Wildlife Division at around 9 pm when the herd was crossing the railway tracks near the Rebana reserve forest.
Sources said the freight train heading to Tangariapal railway station from Sagadapata reportedly hit the herd, killing two pachyderms - an 18-year-old female and a sub-adult female - on the spot. “The bodies of the two elephants have been recovered and sent for postmortem. An investigation has been launched at the level of the divisional forest officer (DFO) to ascertain the exact cause of the accident,” said Baripada RCCF Prakash Chand Gogineni.
Forest staff are on alert as other members of the herd are still moving in the area, he said. Gogineni said, the mishap occurred even as a caution order had been issued to the Railways for restricting speed limit on the stretch for 15 hours from Monday afternoon as there was movement of the herd in the area. “We will find out if the caution order was followed and also investigate if the speed of the train was within the prescribed 40 kmph limit in given time period,” the senior officer said.
Train hit kills 2 elephants in Keonjhar district
Meanwhile, a forest official from the Keonjhar (WL) division said investigation will also be carried out to find out why the incident was not reported to the forest department immediately after it took place. “We have found the goods train left Sagadapata at around 8.36 pm and reached Tangariapal 50 minutes later, though the actual travel time between the two stations is only around 20 minutes,” the official claimed.
Besides, the bodies of the jumbos lied near the tracks till morning and the forest staff were informed about the incident only at around 7.15 am on Tuesday. The matter will be taken up with Railway authorities, the official said.
The incident, meanwhile, has sparked concern over safety of the elephants and other wild animals in the region. Last year, three elephants, including two calves, were killed after being hit by a goods train in the district. An elephant had also died after being hit by a train at Angul in April this year.
Train hits have already claimed lives of nearly 40 elephants in the state in the last one decade. Railway officials said the matter is being looked into. “Caution order was in force. However, it is yet to be established whether the deaths were due to collision of the goods train,” said an official from ECoR.