updated 8/10/2007 6:28:18 AM ET 2007-08-10T10:28:18

Two wild elephants were killed when they were hit by a freight train in India’s remote northeast Friday, officials said.

The elephants were knocked down while crossing the tracks along with a herd of nearly 20 pachyderms near Gauhati, Assam’s capital, said M.C. Malakar, the state’s chief wildlife warden.

“An adult elephant and a calf took the maximum impact of the train and were killed,” Malakar said.

The train engine was derailed by the impact of the collision, said T. Rabha, a railroad spokesman.

Assam state is home to more than 5,000 wild Asiatic elephants.

Villagers accuse train drivers of flouting a speed limit of 12 miles per hour in the area, known as an elephant transit route.

“Acute deforestation and encroachment of humans on elephant habitats across Assam has resulted in this rather alarming situation,” said Pradyut Bordoloi, a former Assam state forest minister.

In 2001, six wild elephants were killed by a passenger train near Assam’s eastern oil-producing town of Digboi.

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