The victims, all tea leaves pickers at the state-owned TanTea plantation in Valparai near Coimbatore city, were trampled Wednesday by four elephants that appeared from the nearby Manampalli forests, the Times of India reported. Other laborers escaped but the three women, all in their 50s, could not.
One victim was grabbed by a male elephant with his trunk, and trampled. The other two victims were chased by three female elephants before being trampled.
The elephants were later chased away into the forests by forest officials firing their guns in the air, the Times said.
"What can we do? We are doing our best with limited staff and inadequate facilities," forest ranger Alphonse Xavier told the newspaper.
"Our repeated pleas to the relevant officials to install street lights and fence the tea estates have fallen on deaf ears."
Such threats are common in the area as the elephants frequently raid food ration shops and centers providing noon meals to workers. The Times said the beasts have killed at last 18 people in the past 10 years.
The Hindu newspaper said the victims were among a group of 10 women on their way to a station to get their harvest of tea leaves weighed when they were attacked.
The report said the elephants stood at the scene for some time, preventing other workers from removing the bodies before being chased away.