A herd of 18 wild elephants have been found dead in Nagaon, in the north-east Indian state of Assam.
State officials say that the elephants were killed when lightning struck the Kandoli protected forest reserve.
Villagers nearby alerted the authorities after finding the carcasses of the animals in the forest.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said he was concerned about such a “huge number of elephants” dying, and that an investigation had been ordered.
There are more than 27,000 Asian elephants in India, about 21% of which are in Assam.
“Local villagers informed us about the death of the elephants. We rushed to the spot and found them lying on the ground. We have sent the carcasses for postmortem,” said a forest official.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Amit Sahay has said, “The area is very remote and our team could reach there on Thursday afternoon.
It was found that carcasses were lying in two groups. Fourteen were lying atop the hill and four were found at the bottom of the hill,” he said.
Assam Environment and Forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya has said he is “deeply pained” by the incident.
Herd of 18 Indian elephants killed by lightning https://t.co/DSpc7dd0T1— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) May 14, 2021
In a statement here today, Mr Suklabaidya said he would be visiting the spot with the The Principal Chief Conservator Of Forests (wildlife) and other officials on Friday to take stock of the situation.
The minister added that a team of forest and veterinary officials had already visited the site.