Massive Forest Fire: 9 Trekkers Died


Hyderabad: At least nine people including four women and a child died after being trapped in a massive fire that broke out in the jungles of Kurangani hill in Theri district of southern Tamil Nadu.

A massive forest fire broke out suddenly in the hills of Kurangani in Tamil Nadu on Sunday trapping 36 trekkers, most of them women. Twenty seven out of the total 36 trekkers trapped in the fire have being rescued by the joing efforts of Indian Army and Garud Commando Force.

While initial reports said those trapped were students, officials later said the victims, belonging to two groups, were young women and men and three children who were on a mountain climbing/trekking training.

Rescue operations were being taken up by the fire and forest department officials with the Indian Airforce sending two helicopters on the directives of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman after she was approached for help by Chief Minister K Palaniswami.

The helicopters undertook a survey of the area and returned to neighbouring Madurai. They were expected to join the rescue operation later, Theni District Collector Mariam Pallavi Baldev said tonight.

The rescue operation had been affected as night had fallen and wild animals had also started leaving the area where the fire was raging in a vast stretch, officials said. He also said the trekkers had not taken the permission or security for going to the deep forest area.

Sitharaman remained in touch with the District Collector and directed the Indian Airforce to co-ordinate in the rescue operations. In a series of tweets, she said two helicopters of the Indian Air Force from its Sulur base near Coimbatore were being sent to assist in the rescue operations.

“Responding to the request from the Hon @CMOTamilNadu on the forest -fire related issue -20 students are caught in Kurangani, Theni district. Instructed @IAF_MCC to help in rescue and evacuation. The Southern Command is in touch with the Collector of Theni,” she said in a tweet.

In another tweet around 7 pm, Sitharaman said she spoke to the Theni District Collector who informed her that 10-15 students were making their way to the foothills.