Jalpaiguri(West Bengal): In a tragic accident, seven elephants were killed when a goods train hit a herd of about 15 as it was crossing railway tracks in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district.
Five elephants died on the spot, two later. The incident took place at around 11 pm on Wednesday night. The elephants were crossing from the Moraghat to the Reti Bandapani forest via an often used corridor when the train rammed into them.
"One of the elephants got stuck in the cow catcher in front of the train and it was dragged by more than 200 metres along the railway track and I've been told that many of the fishplates and couplings of the track got severely damaged. So you can imagine what was the impact," said AK Raha the Principal conservator of forests, West Bengal.
Among the dead were three female elephants, one male, one juvenile and two calves.
The Forest Department has filed an FIR against the railways alleging the train was running at about 70 km per hour. But the Railways refuse to take the blame.
"We told them two days ago there was a big elephant herd roaming about in the area but they did nothing about it. They should have realized the elephants may come this way," said Sachidanand Singh the District Railways Manager of Alipurduar Northeast Frontier Railways.
Such accidents have been spiraling in the area since 2003 when rail tracks were upgraded from meter gauge to broad gauge and more goods trains diverted on this route. Though, the Forest department wants a speed limit of 20 to 40 km per hour
for trains but that hasn't happened.
"We have been told by the DRM in the past that we cannot do it on our own. The instruction for speed limit should come from the Railways board. These are policy decisions. Unless they receive the orders, they cannot do it," added A K Raha.
With no solution available for the problem, elephant herds roaming the area remain vulnerable.