Tamil Nadu blaze: 25 students caught in Theni forest fire; Nirmala Sitharaman says at least 12 rescued

Several students on a mountain climbing training camp in Kurangani hills in Tamil Nadu's Theni district were caught in a forest fire on Sunday, according to media reports.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that 25 students were caught in the blaze.

Sitharaman added that the Indian Air Force (IAF) would be pressed into service and that Southern Command was in touch with the Theni district collector. Sitharaman said she was responding to a request from Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswamy.

File image of defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman. AFP

File image of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. AFP

According to ANI, Sitharaman spoke to Theni district collector Pallavi Baldev, who informed her that at least 10-15 students had been rescued. Sitharaman added that operations to rescue the remaining students were on.

Madurai circle conservator of forests RK Jegania told the Times of India that the college students were caught in the forest fire around 4 pm. One of the students called her father, who then alerted the forest department, the report added.

“They had not obtained permission for trekking. We have dispatched 40 of our personnel for the rescue operation,” Jegania said. Baldev said there are no casualties thus far. “Once the students are safely brought down, further details will be known,” Baldev told the Times of India.

A medical team had been sent to the spot and employees of a nearby private tea estate are also assisting in the rescue operations, Sitharaman said, quoting the collector.

The Kurangani hills are located near Bodinayakanur in southern Tamil Nadu.

Officials in Theni said twelve of the students had been rescued by the local tribals and fire and rescue service and forest personnel and efforts were on to evacuate others.

Police said the students from Coimbatore and Erode were taking training in Kurangai-Kozhuku Hill area when the fire suddenly broke out around noon.

District Superintendent of Police V Baskaran and revenue and forest officials were taking steps to rescue the students from the trapped site.

Officials said the defence minister told the district collector to expedite the rescue operations in coordination with the other department officials including, the air force.

A report from Coimbatore, quoting police, said two IAF 'Sarang' helicopters from Sulur have left for Kurangani forest.

With inputs from agencies


Updated Date: Mar 11, 2018 21:44 PM

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