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Bhubaneshwar, India (AFP) Dec 31, 2012
A speeding passenger train killed five elephants when it ploughed into a herd crossing the track in eastern India, a railway spokesman said Monday.
The train struck the animals on Sunday near the Khallikote forest range in Orissa state's Ganjam district, some 120 kilometres (74 miles) south of the state capital Bhubaneshwar.
"The local forest department had alerted the railway control room about the possibility of the movements of the animals but by the time we got the message the accident had already occurred," spokesman R. N. Mohapatra told AFP.
The train was badly damaged and it took railroad workers several hours to clear the tracks.
A local forest officer said one of the animals that was killed was a 45-year-old pregnant mother.
The state has a poor record of protecting its wildlife with as many as 250 elephants and 504 other wild animals having died since 2009, according to official data.
India is home to around 25,000 Asian elephants but their numbers are falling due to poaching, chiefly for the precious ivory, and destruction of habitat by human populations.
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