Theni fire: State Government refutes, organisers claim that trekkers had permit

Sergio Conner
March 13, 2018

A group of 36 students had been on the ill-fated trekking expedition on Kurangani hills in Bodi, out of which ten succumbed to the massive fire.

The fire began Sunday afternoon in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, sweeping quickly through the Kurangani hills area, a popular destination for tourists.

Also, the expedition was organized by a Chennai-based trekking club which had not taken permission from the forest department. Among the dead, six were from Chennai and three from Erode, local police said.

The district administration and health department officials had been instructed to ensure best medical treatment to those admitted to local hospitals, he said.

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There are many local residents and religious leaders who are also seeking permission to enter the forests to perform rituals. The state government has ordered to ban trekking in the forest with an immediate effect until monsoon sets in.

On Sunday, a 36-member trekking team was caught in the fire in Kurangani-Kozhukumalai hills in Western Ghats located near Bodinayakanur, 40 km from Theni and 500 km from Chennai. "One of the few who were reachable by phone gave us accurate information on the location of the group", the organisation said.

On Monday morning, the IAF commandos with the help of three choppers poured chemical fire extinguisher powders to control the forest fire and nine trekkers stranded in the wild was rescued by the team headed by Theni SP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday appreciated Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and team for their stupendous efforts during the rescue operations in the Theni forest fire. "While one body was recovered earlier, the air force helicopters recovered 8 more bodies after which the search and rescue was concluded", said Theni collectorate sources. Eight commandos had already reached the top and had started dousing the fire, it said.

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