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Leopard sparks panic in north India

Leopard strayed into a hospital, a cinema and an apartment block before evading captors.

Last updated: 24 Feb 2014 09:24
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In the latest incident, a leopard killed a five-year-old boy in central Chhattisgarh state last week [File]

A leopard has sparked panic in a north Indian city when it strayed inside a hospital, a cinema and an apartment block before evading captors, an official said.

Authorities closed schools in Meerut, 60km northeast of the capital, New Delhi, after the leopard was discovered prowling the city's streets on Sunday, a senior city official said on Monday.

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"Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to track the leopard down. We have launched a massive hunt for the beast," said additional district magistrate S.K. Dubey.

The cat was found inside an empty ward of an army hospital on Sunday before wildlife officers were called and managed to fire a tranquiliser dart into the animal, Dubey told AFP news agency.

"But despite that he managed to break [out through] the iron grills and escaped. He then sneaked into the premises of a cinema hall before entering an apartment block. After that we lost track of the cat," he said.

Authorities have urged the closure of markets in the city of 3.5 million people until the animal was captured, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

A photograph in the Hindustan Times newspaper on Monday showed the leopard leaping off a terrace in a congested residential area of the city as people scrambled out of the way.

Last week, a leopard killed a five-year-old boy in central Chhattisgarh state, the latest in a string of incidents raising concerns about depleting habitats for the cats, which was forcing them into populated areas.

Meanwhile, a tiger on the prowl in northern Uttar Pradesh state since last December is believed to have killed some ten people with wildlife officials still trying to hunt it down.

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