GUWAHATI, Sept 29 - A total of 48 elephants have been killed after being hit by trains in the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) zone between 2011 and now.
Senior railway officials however told The Assam Tribune today that the number of elephant fatalities from being hit by running trains has fallen significantly in 2016.
The first train-hit accident this year occurred on the night of September 27-28 when two female elephants of a herd, aged about 5 years and 15 years, dashed against the Dibrugarh-bound Rajdhani Express about 4 kilometres from Dimapur Railway Station. Both the elephants died on the spot.
�This is the first incident of the kind this year which has resulted in death of elephants in the NFR zone,� said an official.
Sources said seven elephants were killed by running trains in 2011, six in 2012, 19 in 2013, five in 2014, nine in 2015 and two in 2016.
�Most of the fatalities happened in the Dooars region of West Bengal, around Alipurduar and Siliguri. For example, in 2015, of the nine deaths, five took place around Alipurduar and Siliguri,� said an official.
He added that NFR has taken steps to ensure safety of pachyderms while at the same time ensuring smooth passage of trains.
In 2010, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest had issued a general advisory for prevention of accidents involving elephants.
Sources said that in 27 identified elephant corridors falling under NFR, including two temporary ones, loco pilots (railway engine drivers) have been issued permanent caution orders to restrict speed to a maximum 50 km per hour, along with constant whistling.
Of the total, 17 corridors are in Alipurduar Division, two in Rangiya Division and four each are in Lumding and Tinsukia divisions.
Signboards have been erected at such places for benefit of loco pilots, sensitisation of railway staff, food wastes along the tracks removed, and coordination has been maintained with the State Forest Department for clearing vegetation within railway land for ensuring clear vision to pilots.
With regard to the latest accident on the night of September 26-27, NFR has instituted a joint inquiry with the State Forest Department.