Five wild elephants — including a calf — were crushed to death by the speeding Chennai-bound Coromondel Express in Ganjam district shortly after midnight on Saturday night.
The body of Ranjit Jena (24), an attendant of an AC coach, was also found near the track. He had suffered a head injury. It is suspected he might have fallen out of the train when it collided with the herd, in a zone of wild elephant movement, near the Subalia level crossing in the Berhampur forest division. There are 10 signboards, marked ‘elephant crossing zone,’ put up between the Rambha and Huma stations.
Accident despite alert
East Coast Railway chief public relations officer R.N. Mohapatra said the Forest department had alerted the railway control room at Khurda Road at 0043 hours on Sunday about the possible crossing of a herd. Ironically, the accident occurred at the same time.
According to Divisional Forest Officer S.S. Mishra, a male elephant aged over 25, a four-year-old calf, two females aged 30-40 and a pregnant elephant of around 45 years were killed. Its mature foetus elephant was found thrown at a distance.
Bijay Kumar Hota, forest range officer of Khallikote, surmised that the superfast train from Howrah was running at 115-120 kmph, considering that pieces of carcasses were found lying over a distance of half kilometre.
Track, engine damaged
The ‘Up’ track, on which the train was running, and the engine also suffered damage. Around 10 sleepers cracked. The rails fractured at over 15 places and panel clips were either damaged or thrown away in the impact. The train was stopped at the spot.
An accident relief train from Khurda Road reached the spot around 3.30 a.m. Traffic on this stretch was maintained on the ‘Down’ line till 10 a.m. According to the DFO, the slain elephants were part of a herd of 20 from the Khallikote forest range, which had crossed over to the Chilika wildlife division 45 days ago. On December 27, eleven elephants retuned to the Khallikote range.
In an earlier accident in the same area, between Rambha and Huma, a mature female elephant was run over and killed by a goods train on the night of May 17.