February 25

Panic in Indian city with leopard on the prowl

Authorities order schools and colleges closed and ask people to stay indoors as police teams scour the city.

The Associated Press

MEERUT, India — Forestry officials and police armed with tranquilizer darts searched for a leopard that injured six people in a northern Indian city, creating panic and driving people indoors, police said Tuesday.

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A man moves out of the way of a leopard in the northern Indian city of Meerut, India, on Sunday. At one point, forestry officials closed in on the leopard in a warehouse, but it leaped through a concrete grill, breaking it and escaping.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

In this cellphone photo, a policeman tries to charge a leopard with a stick that was spotted at a hospital in Meerut, India.

The Associated Press

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

Authorities ordered schools and colleges closed on Monday and asked people to stay indoors as police teams scoured the city. Shopkeepers lowered their shutters and the city streets emptied out.

Soldiers also joined the hunt.

Singh said the leopard was first spotted in the army hospital Sunday afternoon.

“We cordoned off the area and waited. It emerged some hours later and jumped, injuring a police inspector,” he 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.

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

Singh said schools and colleges reopened 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.

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