Tamil Nadu: Theni forest fire toll mounts to 12; case lodged against trekking club owner

Theni: The death toll in the Kurangani forest fire in the district rose to 12 with one more woman succumbing to her burns at a private hospital in Madurai on Thursday, the police said.

The victim was identified as Divya Viswanathan of Coimbatore district, they added.

File image of the Theni forest fire. News18

File image of the Theni forest fire. News18

All the victims belonged to a 36-member trekking team that was caught in the fire in the Kurangani Kozhukumalai hill ranges, near Theni, some 500 kms from Chennai. The team comprised 24 persons from Chennai and 12 from Tiruppur and Erode districts.

The trekkers, including 25 women and three children, had reached the Kurangani hills on 10 March. Three of the team members had opted out of the trek.

After staying at an estate in Kozhukumalai overnight, the trekkers had started their return journey on March 11 (Sunday), when they heard of the forest fire and got separated from each other while trying to find a way out of the forest.

The hills are in the Western Ghats near Bodinayakanur, about 40 kms from Theni.

The forest department has suspended Forest Officer Jaisingh in connection with the incident.

Meanwhile, the police today lodged a case against Peter Van Geit, the owner of the Chennai-based trekking club that had organised the trek.

He was charged under section 304 of the IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), the police said.

Two persons, including an agent of the club at Erode, have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Officials had on Thursday said the search operations were called off as all the trekkers were accounted for.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami has announced a solatium of Rs 4 lakh each to the kin of the deceased, Rs 1 lakh each to those seriously injured and Rs 50,000 each to those with simple injuries.

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Updated Date: Mar 15, 2018 18:45:29 IST

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