Nine trekkers have died in a forest fire on the Kurangani Hills in Tamil Nadu's Theni district, the District Collector said on Monday.
Theni Fire Updates: Tamil Nadu chief minister has ordered probe into the fire incident. He said that the trekking expedition did not have the necessary permission from the forest department.
The search and rescue operations in Theni have reportedly been called off after all the trekkers were accounted. The Tamil Nadu government has said that the trekking team had 39 members and 36 of them were caught in the mishap. The official figures say nine are dead and 27 have been rescued. The whereabouts of three are unknown.
The representative of the Chennai trekking club has been taken into custody by the police in Theni after the blaze killed nine trekkers.
The Kerala government has decided to close down all wildlife sanctuaries for a safety audit, forest minister K Raju has said. He added that the sanctuaries will open only after all safety measures are ensured.
The defence ministry said that the Indian Air Force has brought back 27 of the 36 trapped students in a coordinated search and resuce effort.
Nine trekkers have died in a forest fire on the Kurangani Hills in Tamil Nadu, the District Collector said on Monday. A rescue operation with the help of the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters has been underway since Sunday. A total of 27 trekkers were rescued from the fire in picturesque Theni district, some 520 kilometre from Chennai.
The trekking group of eight men, 25 women and three children had camped at a place up in the hills on Saturday night. They were supposed to return on Sunday. Earlier, in a tweet, Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan expressed grief and shock at the loss of life of those who were caught up in the blaze.
The Minister said he was praying for the fast recovery of those who were injured. He also thanked Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for deploying the IAF team in the rescue effort. According to a Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services official, the operation was expected to be over by Monday afternoon.
Rescue operations are underway after Theni fire tragedy. Firstpost/Naveen Nair
Speaking to IANS, District Collector Pallavi Baldev said the operations were continuing and the trekkers were being brought down by the rescue team members. A temporary helipad has been set up at the Bodi foot hills. The injured have been admitted in hospitals in Madurai and Theni, she said.
The night climate was generally chilly while efforts were afoot to reach the stranded trekkers caught up in the blaze, the fire official added. State Health Secretary J.Radhakrishnan said six of the rescued admitted in a Madurai hospital have suffered serious burn injuries.
The IAF commando team had flown in from the Sulur Air Base near Coimbatore late on Sunday and climbed up the hills. Sitharaman had confirmed on Sunday that the commandos deployed in the rescue mission would carry medicines and provide medical assistance on spot.
Having access to advanced communication facilities, the IAF team was also deputed to check the landing facility for helicopter. They decided on the best ways to evacuate those stuck on the hill, including the injured.
Speaking to the media on Sunday, Baldev had said that 24 trekkers from the Chennai Trekking Club and 12 from Erode and Tiruppur had gone up the Kurangani Hills. The adventure was part of the Woman's Day activity that was celebrated on Thursday. A Tamil Nadu Forest Department official had said that the organisers had not obtained any permission for the trekking mission.
With inputs from agencies