WILDLIFE TRAGEDY: Train mows down elephant – railways deny collision theory

WILDLIFE TRAGEDY: Train mows down elephant – railways deny collision theory – pilot or rail officials loco, nothing to be done at all, 19 and still counting ?!!

People gather near the carcass of the elephant that was killed by a train near Uttar Panjhora, 90km from Alipurduar - 19 and counting, nothing to be done by Bengal, not even a slowdown order, inviting activists ?!! (Biplab Basak)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, Aug. 9: An elephant was run over by a speeding train in Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary last night, taking the total number of the pachyderm to be killed on the tracks in the Dooars in the past four years to 19.

However, railway officials have denied that the adult tusker was knocked down by a train, possibly because the loco pilot did not report the matter to the nearest railway station.

Based on circumstantial evidence, the forest department said a train had collided with the elephant, aged around 22 years, near Murti bridge between Chalsa and Nagrakata stations.

“The elephant was part of a herd that was going from Chapramari sanctuary to Panjhora forest. The tracks were laid around 20 metres above the ground. After the collision, the animal fell on the slope with a grievous injury on the left foreleg. Then, it stood up on three legs and staggered for around 70 metres before collapsing,” said S.B. Patel, chief conservator of forests (wildlife), north Bengal.

The carcass was spotted this morning by the people of Uttar Panjhora, a nearby forest village. After being informed by the villagers, divisional forest officer of Wildlife II Sumita Ghatak and Jalpaiguri DFO Kalyan Das reached the spot.

The officers inspected the spot and collected evidence that suggested that the animal had been run over by a train.

A railway pillar (66/1) was found uprooted. The foresters suspect that the tusker was caught in between the train and the pillar during the collision. There was also diesel on the back of the carcass.

Patel said the train driver had not informed the nearby station about the accident. “There is no doubt that the elephant was mowed down by a train. The driver did not control the speed, though there was a curve at the spot. He did not even stop the train after the accident,” said Patel after visiting the spot.

Sachidananda Singh, the divisional railway manager in Alipurduar, said no train had knocked down any elephant on Alipurduar Junction-Siliguri section last night. “This animal died inside the forest, almost 200 meters from the tracks. The tusker might have died because of some other reasons,” said Singh.

Wildlife activists said with last night’s incident, the number elephants to die on the tracks in the Dooars forest since 2007 had reached 19.

“Trains are supposed to decelerate at several places so that drivers can spot animals and slam the brakes. Trains carrying passengers and goods travel at high speed at night and often collide with elephants,” said Victor Bose, the secretary of Jana Jagaran, a Banarhat-based NGO.

MEANWHILE

Rajdhani engine detaches – rail safety needs a big overhaul, a Laloo legacy  ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Dibrugarh, Aug. 9: Six bogies of the Dibrugarh-bound Rajdhani Express ran engine-less at top speed for a few metres this morning and miraculously remained on track till the pilot realised that the train had come “uncoupled”.

Running at 100km per hour, the train was near Suffry station in Sivasagar around 9 this morning when the detachment occurred with 400 passengers on board.

The engine and the first compartment ran for 3km while the rest of the compartments hurtled for a few metres before coming to a halt.

The passengers did not even realise what had happened till they began getting calls from friends and relatives following television reports of a Rajdhani mishap.

It took half-an-hour for the engineer on board, with help from the nearby station, to repair the snag and attach the train to the engine.

The pilot managed to drive the train to Tinsukia station, 50km away, where the 15-minute halt was extended to one-and-a-half hours for repairs. It finally reached Dibrugarh at 12.40pm, nearly eight hours behind schedule.

The railways, however, tried to brush the incident aside as “a minor technical snag”.

Guard A.D. Saikia and pilots D.N. Murali and P.K. Dowerah were hurriedly escorted out of the train as it reached the platform by railway authorities and were kept away from the media.

The Telegraph managed to track down Murali who admitted “that the train, which was running at a speed of around 100km per hour, had suddenly developed a technical snag because of which the engine and a compartment got disconnected from the rest of the train”. “We drove back the engine and after some repair, the train was taken to Tinsukia where the matter was reported to the higher authorities,” guard A.D. Saikia said.

The divisional railway manager of Tinsukia railway division, Sanjoy Mukherjee, said: “The train had developed some problem which was rectified within a few minutes and it resumed its onward journey to Dibrugarh.”

When asked about lapses, he said: “It is very early to jump to any sort of conclusion”.

An inquiry has been ordered and two teams have left for the site of the incident.

The railway authorities have also sent a team led by senior divisional mechanical engineer of Tinsukia railway division, Gopal Krishna Thackray, to Dibrugarh for verification of the train as well as questioning the drivers and guard of the train.

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