24 Sep 2010

Seven elephants killed by train in India

9:33 am on 24 September 2010

A goods train has crushed seven elephants to death in eastern India after they tried to rescue two calves that got stuck in the tracks.

West Bengal chief forest conservator Atanu Raha said that the baby elephants became trapped as a herd was crossing the line in a forest in the northern district of Jalpaiguri in West Bengal state.

The incident happened late on Wednesday night.

Mr Raha said the adults had crowded around the stricken calves to protect them when they were hit. The two calves were among the dead.

Five elephants died immediately on the track and the two others died on Thursday morning.

Railway traffic was suspended overnight. Surviving members of the herd stayed at the scene in the morning, watching over the dead and injured.

More than 20 elephants are reported to have died in the area in the past year.

Mr Raha said the train was travelling at 70km per hour. The speed limit was restricted to a maximum of 40km per hour.

A Bengali TV channel reported that hundreds of people staged a noisy demonstration near the scene of the accident.

Hindus have been celebrating the end of an 11-day annual festival marking the birth of Lord Ganesha, a revered elephant-headed god.