Theni: Over 20 students, who were part of a mountain climbing training camp, are believed to be trapped in a massive forest fire in Kurangani hills in the Theni district of Tamil Nadu on Sunday.
At least 12 students have been rescued so far, the officials said.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who was approached by Chief Minister K Palaniswami for help to rescue them and been in touch with Theni District Collector, said 10-15 students were making their way to the foothills (after being rescued).
The @IAF_MCC are working w/ local authorities in Theni distt, Tamil Nadu to evacuate all trapped in the forest fire in Kurangani. Smt @nsitharaman has spoken to Collector of Theni Distt & Southern Air Command to co-ordinate a quick & effective Search & Rescue effort.
— Raksha Mantri (@DefenceMinIndia) March 11, 2018
In a series of tweets, she also said two helicopters of the Indian Air Force from its Sulur base near Coimbatore were being sent to assist in the rescue operations.
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.
Just now I have spoken to District Collector. He communicated that 10-15 students have been rescued. They are coming down from the hill. Operation continues.: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's tweet on forest-fire in Tamil Nadu (file pic) pic.twitter.com/4ZlpOOFALe
— ANI (@ANI) March 11, 2018
A medical team had already been sent to the spot and employees of a nearby private tea estate were also assisting in the rescue operations, she said quoting the collector.
Kurangani hills are located near Bodinayakanur in southern Tamil Nadu.
Officials here 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 Airforce.
A report from Coimbatore, quoting police, said two IAF 'Sarang' helicopters from Sulur have left for Kurangani forest.
(With PTI inputs)