Durgapur, April 14: Two wild tuskers spent the day in the heart of the steel city here till a thunderstorm and stones pelted by a swelling surge of on-lookers forced them out of a lake-bath in the Kumarmangalam park and back into an adjoining forest.
The elephants had breached the iron railing of the sprawling park early today to take refuge from the busy highway and criss-crossed streets in the township.
Streams of people poured in to see the elephants splashing about and sending spouts of water into the air. But the administration had to split hairs. The RAF was called in and Central Industrial Security Force personnel were on standby. The sea of people was as much cause of worry for the forest and police officers as the two full-grown males.
The park was shut to public but an impromptu mela was in place outside it in no time. Titbits were selling fast as men, women and children flocked on all conceivable modes of transport.
“It is not everyday that you see wild elephants. We only get to read about them. It is really thrilling,” said Shampa Biswas, who had turned up with her boyfriend, looking in awe at the animals, their wet hides glistening in the sun.
Suman Saha, who was awakened by the marching animals earlier, said he was never so scared before. “I was sleeping out in the open as it was sweltering inside when suddenly I saw two huge shapes gliding by, I rushed indoors,” said the resident of the thermal power plant colony nearby. He had turned up at the park for a “better view”.
As forest personnel led by divisional officer G.B. Roy waited endlessly for a team from Calcutta equipped with a tranquilliser gun, peals of thunder roared across a darkening sky around 5.30 pm and rain fell in sheets.
Sensing that the “show” could come to an early end, the crowd grew restless. A shower of sticks, stones and anything that it could lay its hands on followed despite a huge police presence in the cordoned-off park.
There was a lathicharge and, perhaps irritated by the crowd behaviour, the elephants lumbered out of the water and left the park the way they had come in.
The main roads in the area were closed to traffic and announcements were made over loudspeakers exhorting people to remain indoors.
Skirting the nearby Chitralay theatre, the animals crossed the New Trunk Road and took refuge in a wooded area. But they were chased out by a mob with flaming torches marshalled by the forest department officers. Taking to the busy Mahatma Gandhi Road, the elephants tried to get into a patch of trees near the steel plant township, but later returned to the wood near the cinema hall.
Roy said the tuskers had been roaming Bankura over the past few weeks and the large lake inside the park and plenty of foliage had probably attracted them to the spot.