A wild elephant was hit by a speeding train and killed on the Howrah-Mumbai main line in the Saranda forest area of West Singhbhum, about 190 km from here in the wee hours of Thursday.
Significantly, despite the stretch being an elephant-sensitive zone, the train that hit the elephant was running at a speed of over 110 kmph.
Divisional forest officer, Saranda, Rajnish Kumar, who visited the spot, said, "The mishap took place while a herd of five elephants was crossing the railway track at about 1 am . Four elephants had already crossed the track and while the fifth was crossing it, a speeding train hit it causing it to get flung away. Subsequently, the train, which was an inspection train, ran over it. The animal died on the spot."
Kumar said the elephant which was killed was waiting for another elephant to cross first. But in the meantime, the train, running at blistering speed, hit it.
"There was an agreement between the railway and the forest department. The Saranda area is an elephant project area and elephants regularly cross tracks from one side of the dense forest to another. Hence, the speed limit of trains on the stretch should not be more than 40 kmph. But, the train that caused the mishap was running at 110 kmph," the DFO, Saranda, told Telegraph Online.
The senior forest officer looked into the reason behind the speed limit violation. He quoted the train driver, S.R. Kundu, as saying that he did not have a "caution order".
The railway line where the mishap took place falls under Chakradharpur railway division with headquarters at Chakradharpur in West Singhbhum district.
Senior divisional commercial manager (DCM), Chakradhapur, Manish Pathak said he was aware of the accident.
"The mishap took place after an inspection train was running at maximum speed as mandated for trials. But when there was a herd of elephants near the railway track, the forest department should have alerted the nearest railway station. Then, the train driver would have been issued a caution order accordingly," said Pathak.
The senior DCM further said that the speed limit pertained to 5km only, from Manoharpur to Bisra, during which time the train has to run at a speed under 40 kmph. But the accident took place at Raikapath, far away from the restricted stretch. The absence of an alert from the forest department caused the mishap, he claimed.