Kannan spreads panic around Shanghumughom beach and airport area

An elephant, which ran amok at Shanghumughom during the ‘arattu’ held in connection with the annual Painkuni festival of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple here, kept the public on tenterhooks for nearly two hours on Wednesday.

Police said the elephant, Kannan, brought in from Paravur in Kollam for the festival, was stationed along with other elephants near the Shanghumughom Devi temple when he suddenly became agitated around 7.30 p.m. after the ‘arattu’ procession had reached Shanghumughom. The elephant first ran to Shangumughom Junction, where he stood for a few minutes, but immediately resumed his panic run along the road as the frightened crowd ran helter-skelter. He targeted an autorickshaw that came his way, before turning his ire onto a few two-wheelers parked along the road near the beach.

Reaching the Airport Technical Area, the elephant went right through the gate of the high-security area, which leads to the runway, where a flight was about to take off. However, police said he stopped immediately inside the gate and turned round, heading back to the beach, en route nearly crumbling a Maruti car parked nearby.

Members of the Emergency Elephant Care Unit that was accompanying the procession had, by then, fired a tranquilizer shot, and when the elephant turned towards the All Saints Road, the second shot too was fired. It took about 30 minutes for the tranquilizer to take effect on the pachyderm. He targeted another auto during this time. Police, mahouts, and the public then used chains and ropes to secure him and then to pull him into the temple ground, where he was tethered for the night.

Police said the area where the elephant was stationed, before he ran amok, was dark with no streetlights, and there were eye-witnesses who said a pack of stray dogs was irritating the elephants. However, this was yet to be ascertained.

“The entire beach area is not properly lit, and we cannot say what exactly happened in the dark before he ran loose,” a police officer said.

The return procession of the ‘arattu’, which resumed a while later, passed off with no more untoward incidents.