ECONOMYNEXT – The tragic train crash that led to the deaths of two elephant calves and their pregnant mother also brought out the beast in many villagers of Habarana who showed scant respect for the dead animals and paid little attention to their own safety.
After the train ploughed into the herd that was crossing the railway track within the jungles of Habarana, local residents rushed to grab elephant hairs and remove the jaw bones of the fresh carcasses.
Elephant hair is used in rings and it is believed that a person wearing such jewellery will have super human strength. The tails of the elephants were cut off by unidentified villagers even before wild life officials could reach the site, local journalists said.
They said what was most disgusting was a man who tried to cut off the jaw bone even as a bulldozer attempted to move the mangled body of the cow elephant.
Apart from the disrespect to an animal that is considered sacred in Sri Lanka and used in Buddhist pageants, residents also risked their lives by trying to scoop off gasoline and other fuel pouring out of the derailed oil tankers.
For one full hour, villagers brought any plastic container they could lay their hands on to collect oil until police cordoned off the crash site and kept fire fighters on standby.
Similar attempts to salvage oil from overturned tankers in countries like Nigeria have led to hundreds of deaths. But, in Habarana, the villagers showed no concern for their own safety. Many mothers brought their infant children, and left them by the railway track while they collected oil.
They may have helped minimize environmental damage by collecting the spilled oil, but the country could have ended up with a bigger disaster if not for the timely intervention of the local police. (COLOMBO, Sept 18, 2018)