Four Elephants killed after Speeding Train hits them in Assam

Four elephants have died and another critically injured after a speeding train hit them in Assam’s Nagaon district. Local people say, accident happened in an area which has been identified as an elephant corridor. Fence stood between death and safety

GUWAHATI: Four elephants were killed in Assam’s Nagaon district on Saturday after being hit by a speeding train.

The accident took place when a herd of elephants was in the area, as the Guwahati-Silchar passenger train was crossing the Habaipur Railway Station on the Lumding Division of NFR, said P.J. Sharma, Chief Public Relations Officer of the Northeast Frontier Railway.

The impact was so intense that four elephants died on the spot while another is critically injured. The engine of the train derailed due to the impact; no passenger was injured.

A special train has been sent from Lumding, to help the stranded passengers, an official of Northeast Frontier Railway said.

Locals claim that the accident happened in an area that has already been identified as an elephant corridor, and they even waved and tried to stop the train driver.

Elephant deaths, due to accidents, are on the rise in Assam; the state forest department data says 110 elephants died in 2016 and 118 in 2015. Train accidents, poisoning by farmers and electrocution are the main causes of elephant deaths, say forest department officials.

An official from World Wildlife Fund says, areas in Assam where elephant deaths are on the rise have lost 70 per cent of its forest cover, forcing the animals to stray into villages.

As per the Assam forest department, control rooms at divisional offices, to monitor the elephant movements and anti-depredation squads, with local support have been set up to, deal with the problem.

The department, along with North East Frontier Railways, has organised awareness camps for train drivers to tackle situations arising out of elephant movement near railway tracks.

The Asian elephants of Assam have been declared as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Fence stood between Death and Safety

A barbed wire fence has probably resulted in the death of elephants at Hawaipur railway station under Lumding division on Saturday night.

Four elephants died when they were trapped between the fence and the tracks while the condition of the fifth one has been reported to be serious when 15611 Guwahati-Silchar fast passenger train hit the elephants. This issue figured in the meeting between forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma and officials of NF Railway in Hojai on Sunday.

The elephants wanted to cross the track but got trapped in the fence which resulted in their death.”The barbed wire fence was put up as track doubling work is going on,” a source said, adding that in the meeting, the railways have been asked to remove the fence in construction sites at Hawaipur station.

An NF Railway official said barbed wire fence has to be put up wherever track doubling work is on. The meeting decided that there would be a joint inquiry by the forest department and NF Railways.

The source said cases of elephants dashing against trains in areas where they constantly cross tracks would greatly increase now wherever track doubling work is on. He said this also proves that there has been no joint patrolling between the forest and the railways or else the forest department would have known about the fence.

Though the NF Railways says the incident took place at a location where there was no notified elephant corridor, the forest department has already given them a list of 19 locations in three forest ranges where elephants often move on the tracks. Hawaipur is one of the places which has been mentioned by the forest department in the list.

“The 19 locations were decided at a meeting in December 21 in Lumding,” a forest official said.

The NF Railways, in a statement, said based on inputs received from the forest department a speed restriction of 30kmph had been imposed and all trains were instructed to slow down while passing by issuing caution order to the loco pilots. “While prima facie inquiry has revealed that the train was within its stipulated speed, a departmental inquiry has been ordered to find out details about adherence to protocols,” it said.