Page last updated at 07:02 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 08:02 UK

Indian villagers flee elephants

Elephants crossing road in India (File picture)
Elephant habitats are shrinking in India

Hundreds of villagers have been forced to take shelter in camps in the Indian state of Orissa after repeated attacks by a herd of elephants.

Seven people have been killed and several others injured in attacks by a herd of 12-13 elephants over the past few weeks in Kandhamal district.

Over 2,500 people living in 45 villages have been affected by the attacks, district chief Krishen Kumar said.

Wild animals have often entered villages and killed people in India.

Conservationists say this is because the natural habitats of the elephants are shrinking. They blame this on human encroachment, which means animals have to travel further for food.

It is, however, unclear why this herd of elephants migrated from the Lakheri sanctuary in a neighbouring district.

Mr Kumar told the BBC that 500 homes in some seven villages had been completely destroyed in the attacks, and about 500 residents had taken shelter in two camps.

"People have lost their thatched homes. We will open more camps if the attacks continue," Mr Kumar said.

He said the herd had travelled some 300km into Kandhamal, and even entered a town in the district.

Wildlife officials were camping at the site of the attacks and trying to find out why the elephants had come out of their sanctuary.

Mr Kumar said the elephants had entered Kandhamal nearly a month ago.

But matters came to a head last week when three villagers were killed and more than 100 homes were destroyed in a single attack.

Last year, a rampaging elephant killed at least seven people and injured 24 others in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

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