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Leopard strikes fear in Indian city

Officials armed with tranquilizer darts search for animal that has injured six people in Meerut city of Uttar Pradesh.

Last updated: 26 Feb 2014 08:09
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On Sunday the leopard wandered into an army hospital causing panic as people rushed to escape [AFP]

Forestry officials and police armed with tranquilizer darts are searching for a leopard that injured six people and drove residents indoors in a bustling northern Indian city.

The leopard wandered through an army hospital and a crowded market in Meerut city on Sunday, setting off a minor stampede in which two more people were hurt, police superintendent Abhiskek Singh said.

Authorities ordered schools and colleges closed on Monday and asked people to stay indoors as police teams scoured the city.

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Shopkeepers lowered their shutters and the city streets were empty.

Soldiers also joined the hunt after the leopard was first spotted in the army hospital on Sunday afternoon.

"We cordoned off the area and waited. It emerged some hours later and jumped, injuring a police inspector," Singh said.

The animal leaped over the roofs of single-storied homes and disappeared.

Since then, groups of wildlife officials wearing helmets and carrying tranquilizer guns and volunteers armed with sticks have been searching a wide swathe around the hospital.

At one point, forestry officials closed in on the leopard in a warehouse, but it leaped through a concrete grill, breaking it and escaping. 

"It's a fully grown male ... a big animal with enormous strength, which is what has panicked residents," Singh said.

Panic and fear

"We were afraid to go out of the house. There was a lot of panic and fear," homemaker Pooja Mahajan said on Tuesday. "But no one has spotted the leopard since yesterday, so today things are back to normal."

Singh said schools and colleges reopened on Tuesday. Wildlife officials were on alert but it was likely the animal had fled to nearby forests, he said.

Leopards are protected in India, though more are straying into cities and villages to search for food as their habitats shrink.

Meerut, a bustling commercial city in Uttar Pradesh state, is about 70km northeast of the Indian capital, New Delhi.

In another part of Uttar Pradesh, a female tiger has killed nine people, most of them poor villagers and farm labourers living on the fringes of a wildlife reserve park.

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