updated 12/24/2006 10:32:15 PM ET 2006-12-25T03:32:15

A wild elephant looking for food killed three people and injured 10 on Sunday in a forest range in eastern India, police said.

The elephant lifted the three villagers with his trunk one by one and threw them on the ground in Purlia district, said Haradhan Roy, a police officer. The three died on the spot, Roy said.

The elephant also injured 10 villagers in Parwa and Kuriam villages, nearly 155 miles southwest of Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal state, he said. The injured were hospitalized.

It damaged some huts before retreating to the Jhalda forest, a well-known elephants’ habitat, Roy told The Associated Press.

A team of forest officials carrying tranquilizer guns and some armed policemen were searching for the elephant in the area, he said.

Conflicts between humans and elephants have escalated in eastern India in recent years as the destruction of the elephants’ natural habitat has expanded, forcing them to forage for food in populated areas.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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