Updated: September 25, 2021 1:21:36 am
A television journalist accompanying an elephant rescue team died after their boat capsized in the Mahanadi river at the Mundali bridge in Odisha’s Cuttack district, officials said.
The boat was carrying personnel of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) which was attempting to rescue the tusker trapped in the river. One of its members, Sitaram Murmu, is missing. A search is underway for him.
The boat overturned owing to the strong current in the river.
The journalist, Arindam Das, died after falling into the river. His colleague, Prabhat Sinha, a video journalist, was hospitalised and is in critical condition. Das worked for the Odiya TV news channel OTV.
He is survived by his wife and a two-year-old son.
The emergency officer of Cuttack’s SCB Hospital, Bhubanananda Maharana, said Das had died before admission. “The doctors tried to revive him for an hour but failed,” he said.
A team of 80 forest officials from two divisions of Odisha and members of ODRAF were part of the elephant rescue operation..
The Odisha State Disaster Management Authority has initiated an investigation into how two mediapersons were allowed to accompany the rescue team. “The incident is unfortunate and the matter will be investigated. Even in normal conditions it is not advisable for anyone to accompany a rescue team under such harsh conditions,” a senior OSDMA official said, requesting anonymity.
According to the forest officials, the trapped elephant, a sub-adult male, was a part of a 17-member herd which was trying to cross the Mahanadi river from Chandaka to Banki late Thursday night. Around 10 elephants were stuck due to the strong currents in the water. According to onlookers, by Friday morning, three elephants could be seen in the river. Two of them struggled and managed to cross the river together while the lone tusker was stuck close to the bridge. The elephant has been stuck at one spot for over six hours and has to cover 20 metres to reach the riverbank.
“The other elephants have safely crossed the river but just this one tusker is still stuck. The water current was very strong because of which the elephant got tired. Elephants otherwise are very good swimmers. Teams from ODRAF, fire department and the forest department have been pressed into action,” said assistant conservator of forest of Chandaka division Sangram Mohanty.
“Initially we put a net around it to save it from getting swept away. After gaining some strength, the elephant tried to walk on its own and cross the river. We have also been throwing tree branches so that he eats something,” Mohanty added.
The Mahanadi river has been flowing at its full capacity after incessant rains and release of water from Hirakud Dam.
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