According to forest department sources, a herd comprising 40 elephants was crossing railway tracks near a bridge in the sanctuary when the Jaipur-Kamakhya Kabiguru Express rammed into it.
The train engine stopped after the mangled body of one of the elephants got stuck under it. Two calves and five adult elephants were killed in the accident.
West Bengal Forest Minister Hiten Burman blamed the railways for the jumbos' deaths. He said trains are supposed to move at low speed and whistle continuously while passing through the elephant crossing zone but preliminary probe indicated that it was not the case on Wednesday. According to the guidelines made jointly by the railway ministry and state forest department, trains are supposed to run at speeds not more than 40 kmph but the Kabiguru Express was running at 70-80 kmph.
The state forest minister blamed the railways for not abiding by speed limit
A relief train was sent from Alipurduar to take the passengers of the Kabiguru Express as it was halted by the accident.
Burman said personnel were deployed around the spot where the accident took place to trace more injured elephants. He said the issue will be taken up with the railway authorities.
Around 40 elephants have been killed on the railway tracks ever since the Dooars rail track connecting Siliguri Junction with Alipurduar was converted to broad gauge in 2002.
In September 2010, seven elephants were killed after a train mowed down a herd near Moraghat Tea Estate, not very far from Wednesday's spot. Three elephants were killed in train hit in May this year, also in Moraghat.