Deadly kite strings kill 150 birds in India

2 min

Sanand (India) (AFP)

More than 150 birds have been killed by razor-sharp kite strings in an annual religious festival in western India that attracts millions of revellers.

Volunteers raced to the rescue of pigeons, starlings and storks but 152 birds died before they could be treated, officials said Friday.

Hundreds of others were injured in Gujarat and Maharashtra states after getting entangled in strings which are coated with a paste of powdered glass and glue to make them sharp in order to sever the strings of rival kites.

Harshil Shah, who works for a volunteer bird rescue group, said their centres in Maharashtra and Gujarat had received some 750 distress calls on January 14 and 15 when the festival of Makar Sakranti is celebrated with fervour.

"We try to lessen response time during an emergency call to save as many birds as possible but 20 percent of the birds have succumbed to their injuries after getting entangled in the strings," he told AFP.

A bird rescue camp in suburban Mumbai reported treating injured owls, koels (cuckoo) as well as a squirrel.

AFP images showed a volunteer trying to rescue a painted stork from the top of a tree in Gujarat's Sanand district.

In Surat, emergency calls were made after revellers were injured while chasing loose kites or falling from rooftops.

On Wednesday, metro train services in northern Lucknow city were halted for 12 minutes after a kite string got entangled in the high voltage overhead electric wires, the fourth such instance in the past 10 months.

The use of Chinese sharp strings or manjha is banned in New Delhi and elsewhere but weak enforcement means it continues to be widely used.

Road accidents where two-wheeler riders are hit by manjha, sometimes fatally, are also common.