Rourkela: Bisra Maidan, which played host to luminaries like Indira Gandhi, A B Vajpayee and L K Advani in the past, was today besieged by uninvited guests -- a herd of wild elephants, striking panic in the steel city.
Official sources said the eleven strong herd, comprising six females, two males and three calves which had stayed for the last couple of days near Bisra Rehabilitation and Settlement (RS) Colony, started the march towards Rourkela city in the wee hours.
The stretch between Rourkela-Bisra is about 21 kms with vast unoccupied expanses and the jumbos covered it in no time. The residents of the RS Colony say they saw the herd moving from their habitation in the wee hours, sources said.
The pachyderms did not harm anybody but damaged a wall, a few kiosks and three auto rickshaws before crossing the Ring Road and then reaching the stadium, they said.
Plant Site police got the information and informed forest officials. On getting information about the presence of the herd, I informed the forest department and moved to the spot. By that time a small crowd was watching the scene, said Arun Swain, IIC Plant Site Police Station.
As precautionary measure all the gates of the stadium were closed. We were lucky that by that time the first sign of day break was visible and the herd generally does not move during day time, said S Kumar, DFO Panposh range.
"First we closed the gates, said a police official adding food items like banana and mango were thrown towards them. Gradually large branches of mango and banyan trees were brought for the jumbos. We are planning to start the process of evacuation during night, say by ten. For that the preparation is being made, said the DFO.
Shyam, a local vendor said he heard a high decibel sound at night and realised it was that of an elephant. "Soon, five-six came out of the stadium and I saw them standing barely 50 meters from me. I froze there. They stayed inside the green belt for sometime and then went inside.
The trumpeting woke up his friend, Manoj. I realised there was an elephant in the vicinity but it did not occur to me that it was so close. Then I found Shyam running back and soon others woke up. We were scared, said Manoj.
Soon the news spread and curious onlookers made a beeline for the maidan which is being developed into a stadium. The police found it difficult to control the crowd as people panicked.
Meanwhile, senior officials of RSP, police and forest visited the spot and discussed steps to deal with the situation. We have planned to wait and watch till sun set. Till that period we are keeping our finger crossed because it all depends on their mood and situation, said a forest official.
The herd had entered the RS Colony near Bisra two days ago and had ransacked and razed three houses there but did not attack humans.