Seven elephants died after coming in contact with a live wire in Odisha’s Dhenkanal district on Friday, PTI reported. Villagers found their carcasses – three on a road and four inside a canal – and informed the forest department on Saturday morning.
The seven elephants, part of a herd of 13 elephants, died after they came in contact with an 11-kV line, Assistant Conservator of Forest Jitendranath Das said. The incident took place in a village in the Sadar Forest Range when the herd was proceeding towards a canal road from a paddy field. This is the highest number of elephants killed in a single incident in the state, according to NDTV.
An unidentified official told PTI that senior forest officers, including Das and Divisional Forest Officer of Dhenkanal Sudarsan Patra, visited the spot and made arrangements to shift the carcasses after being informed by residents in Kamalanga village.
Forest Minister Bijayshree Routray said the incident was “most unfortunate” and accused the electricity department of negligence, The Statesman reported. “We lost seven elephants due to the sheer negligence of central electricity supply utility,” he said. “The electricity supply authority was repeatedly warned about the sagging lines, both by the forest department and the people of the area.” He added that cases will be registered against those responsible for such apathy.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday ordered an inquiry by the Crime Branch and directed authorities to take appropriate action in case of any criminal negligence, ANI reported. The Odisha government also suspended six officials and sacked a junior engineer of the Central Electricity Supply Utility, according to reports. The forest department has suspended three of its staff, including the Dhenkanal Range Officer.
The Divisional Forest Officer had recently written to the electricity department authorities about the overhanging transmission lines on a stretch from Kamalanga to Kaliakila, according to The Statesman. In March, Additional Chief Secretary (Forest) Suresh Mahapatra held a meeting where it was decided that electrical transmission lines passing through areas with elephants in the state should be cabled or insulated.
Two elephants died in separate incidents in Assam on Saturday, reported NorthEast Now. While an adult elephant was found dead at Janjimukh in Jorhat district, a calf died after falling into a ditch in a tea estate in Golaghat.
In April, four elephants died after a speeding train ran over them in Odisha’s Jharsuguda district.