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On tiger hunt, 2 Bengal forest guards suffocate to death inside special vehicle

Fumes from a generator used to power lights and other equipment overcame the two as they kept the vehicle’s windows closed, forest department staff said.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2018 21:44 IST
Koushik Dutta
Koushik Dutta
Hindustan Times
tracking tiger,West Bengal,West Midnapore
The special vehicle, named Airavata, in which the two guards were found.(HT Photo)

Two Bengal forest department staff suffocated to death inside a special vehicle early Tuesday while on a mission to spot a tiger that had spread panic among villagers in West Midnapore district for more than a week.

Damodar Murmu (37) and Amal Chakraborty (28) were tracking the tiger in a vehicle used scare away wild elephants in the Khamaegora forest near Goaltore where the big cat was last spotted. The area is close to the Jharkhand border.

They were found senseless inside the vehicle when members of a local forest protection committee broke open its door. Both were declared brought dead at a local hospital.

Fumes from a generator used to power lights and other equipment such as sirens and loudspeakers overcame the two as they kept the vehicle’s windows closed, forest department staff said.

“All of us were trained to keep the windows open while the generator is running. It seems fear of the tiger prompted them to ignore the instruction. What we cannot understand is why they did not leave the windows partially open so that smoke from the generator could escape,” said Dulal Khapri, a forest guard who was on duty with another team deployed in the same area.

“The deaths are shocking. Both men had undergone necessary training,” said Rabindranath Saha, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Midnapore.

The vehicle, named Airavata, was deployed last year in the wake of increasing incidents of destruction by elephant herds that roam between West Bengal and Jharkhand.

The forest department decided to use it to track the tiger first spotted by a camera trap on March 2 as well as drive away an elephant herd in the area. The presence of the herd that moved in from Jharkhand had been making the tiger change its location rapidly, complicating efforts to trap it, a forest officer said on condition of anonymity. The tiger and its pugmarks have also been spotted adjoining Bankura district.

First Published: Mar 13, 2018 20:26 IST