Jharsuguda: A speeding train knocked down four elephants, including a tusker and a calf, early on Monday morning, in Jharsuguda district of Odisha. All the four elephants were killed in the accident which took place in the in the elephant corridor in Bagdihi forest range. This has been the worst such tragedy in the state since 2012.
The train, 12810 Howrah-Mumbai Mail, which was passing through the Bagdihi forest range, rammed into the elephants while the mammals were trying to access their way across track. This happened close to an unmanned level crossing near Teladihi early this morning. The impact of the collision was so hard that all the animals were killed, informed Sushant Kumar, Jharsuguda Divisional Forest Officer.
As per the forest officials, the elephant herd was probably coming from the Bamra wildlife division, a part of the Sambalpur elephant reserve, around 20 km away.
To remove the huge carcasses from the tracks, three earth moving machines were deployed which took a lot of time. Several trains including Bokaro-Alleppey Express and Tapaswini Express were stopped at Jharsuguda station and hence got delayed.
As per the records, in the last 8 years, 22 elephants have been killed on rail tracks in Odisha. Wildlife activists have said that the mishap is an alarm for the state’s record on such incidents. In December 2012, the Coromandel Express had knocked down six elephants at Rambha area of Ganjam district.
Activists noted that the place where Monday’s mishap took place is known to be a vulnerable spot. Last September, a four-month-old calf that had sneaked into Teladihi village in search of food died after falling into a railway trench. A month later, a 15-year-old female elephant was electrocuted by a stray live wire while trying to rescue her calf that had fallen into another trench. The calf died too.
In the backdrop of the December 2012 incident in Ganjam district, the union Ministry of Environment and Forests had set up a committee. The panel had recommended that the Railways should restrict the speed of trains passing through such accident prone areas in forests to a maximum 40 km per hour in order to prevent elephant deaths. The Union’s committee had advised speed restrictions through identified vulnerable tracks in Odisha as is done in Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand. Ever since these recommendations were implemented, the number of train kills had came down in the following three years.
But Monday’s incident sparked outrage rage among wildlife activists who said it was apparent that despite the forest department and the railway authorities being aware about the spot being an elephant corridor, they did nothing to prevent more deaths.