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Thursday, October 21, 1999 Published at 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK

World: South Asia

Drunken elephants trample village

Loss of natural habitat is blamed for growing number of attacks

A herd of elephants that got drunk on rice beer has run amok in a village in Assam in India and killed four people.

A local wildlife official said the herd of 15 elephants broke into thatched huts in the village of Prjapatibasti and guzzled the beer that was fermenting in casks.

They then rampaged through other huts, killing four members of one family and injuring six others.

More than 100 people have died in attacks by elephants in the north-eastern state of Assam in the past year.

The state has an elephant population of about 5,500. Elephants are protected under Indian law.

Beer has been blamed for previous attacks. Locals say the elephants have developed a taste for the brew.

But the main cause of the increasing number of elephant attacks is thought to be the shrinkage of their natural forest habitat.

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