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Three elephants run over by train in West Bengal

Three elephants including a calf were mowed down in the wee hours today by a speeding train in Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal. In all, 41 elephants have died on the 168km long New Jalpaiguri- Alipurduar railway track since 2004. Pramod Giri reports.
By Pramod Giri | Hindustan Times, Silguri
UPDATED ON MAY 30, 2013 08:08 PM IST

Three elephants including a calf were mowed down in the wee hours of Thursday by a speeding train in Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal.

In all, 41 elephants have died on the 168km long New Jalpaiguri- Alipurduar railway track since 2004.

The accident happened between Banarhat and Binnaguri railway stations and evoked memories of the September 22, 2010 incident when seven elephants were killed at a spot that is barely 200 meters away from Thursday's incident.

On Thursday at 4.30am, Alipurduar-bound, UP Mahananda Express hit the elephants crossing the railway track under Moraghat forest range just before the train reached Binnaguri station. Three of them- a calf, its mother and another female died, while the seriously injured female elephant is being treated at Gorumara National Park.

The killing of elephants by trains has already become a national issue as it was also mentioned in this year's railway budget presented in the parliament by the then railway minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal.

The area where the accident happened is an elephants' corridor where there is restriction on speed of trains.

"Two elephants died immediately, one succumbed later while the fourth is critically injured," said Sumita Ghatak the divisional forest officer (division II).

Foresters and wild life activists have blamed the railways for the accident. They said that the UP Mahananda Express was running at high speed.

However, the railways have maintained that the train was maintaining the prescribed speed limit of 50 km per hour.

Virendra Kumar the divisional railway manager, Alipurduar said, "The train was maintaining the prescribed speed limit when the accident happened." Kumar also said that the driver could not see the elephants as they suddenly appeared on the track.

The divisional railway manager told Hindustan Times that two forest personnel posted at control room of Alipurduar railway station to alert about elephant movements along railway tracks were also not aware about their appearance at the accident site.

However, the railways have started enquiry headed by divisional mechanical engineer and divisional safety officer.

"The Railway family is deeply grieved by some incidents of death of elephants on railway tracks passing through forest areas. Several measures have been initiated in consultation with Ministry of Environment & Forests, which I am confident, will substantially reduce such accidents and safeguard the lives of these gentle giants," said Bansal in his railway budget speech.

Prior to Thursday's incident, speeding trains have killed six elephants since January 5. On January 5, five elephants were killed by Dibrugarh bound Jhajha Express under Damanpur forest range of Buxa Tiger Reserve (West).

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