Locals of several villages in Balasore district of Odisha have been spending cold nights atop trees, terrified by the prospect of being attacked by a herd of wild elephants that has entered the area from neighbouring forests of Jharkhand.
While a majority of the villagers, mostly tribals, of the 15 villages affected by elephant rampage, have been living on temporary wooden planks built on the top branches of trees, many have also taken shelter in school buildings in a nearby sub-divisional headquarters town of Nilagiri.
The herd consisting of nearly 30 tuskers, 25 calves and female pachyderms, have already destroyed several houses in the villages besides destroying crops in about 80 acres.
"Since the past 11 days, we are suffering like anything they (Elephants) have broken our houses and damaged the paddy field," said Mangal Singh, a villager.
Forest officials and the district police have been trying their best to push back the herd to their habitat but in vain. About 170 personnel, including two platoons of police, are engaged in controlling the rampage and nearly eight of them have already sustained injuries in the exercise.
"We have provided chilli-grease fencing, somehow it is effective and it has acted as a repellent to some extent to minimize the damage of human inhabitants. Now the elephants have been for nearly 10 days and another herd of about 30 elephants has joined with this previous herd two days back. Now all the 120 elephants are in the reserve forest," said forest officer of Balasore district, Kedar Kumar Swaim.
The Balasore district administration has been providing cooked food to the affected villagers, an exercise the district administration usually undertakes during natural calamities like floods. (ANI)