THENI, CHENNAI: Nine people were killed in a massive forest fire in Kurangani hills in the Theni district of Tamil Nadu on Sunday. Few are still trapped in the fire.
"The people who died in the fire include four women, four men and a child. Out of 27 people who have been rescued 10 of them have minor injuries, while 8 of them have serious injuries," tweeted news agency ANI
The trekkers, aged between 8 and 30 years of age, were charred to death in the intense blaze as rescuers struggled to reach them.
Sixteen commandos of Garud Commando Force and three choppers from the Indian Air Force choppers have been deployed on Monday. Another IAF chopper is on standby as the search and rescue operations continue. Nearly 27 people have been rescued so far, informed State Health Minister C Vijayabaskar, adding that medical assistance has been provided to those injured.
காட்டுத்தீயில் சிக்கிய 39 பேரில், இதுவரை 27 பேர் மீட்கப்பட்டுள்ளனர்.
— Dr C VijayaBaskar (@Dr_Vijayabaskar) March 12, 2018
As the enormity of the situation unfolded, Chief Minister E Palaniswami said rescue operations were underway on a war footing and the state had sought two helicopters from the Defence Ministry.
In a series of tweet on late Sunday night, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharamansaid that the rescue operations were being taken up by the fire and forest department officials.
1. @IAF_MCC helicopterல் 10 commando க்கள் சுமார் 23:30hrs க்குள் மதுரை சென்றடைந்து அங்கிருந்து சாலை வழியாகவும் பின்னர் நடந்தும்/trek மாணவர்களை சென்றடைவர். GPS&satellite phone மூலமாக தொடர்பில் இருப்பார்கள். #குரங்கணிதீ @CMOTamilNadu @PIB_India @ThanthiTV @gennowmedia
— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) March 11, 2018
— O Panneerselvam (@OfficeOfOPS) March 11, 2018
The helicopters undertook a survey of the area and returned to neighbouring Madurai. They were expected to join the rescue operation later, Theni District Collector Mariam Pallavi Baldev said tonight.
While initial reports said those trapped were students, officials later said the victims, belonging to two groups, were young women and men and three children who were on a mountain climbing/trekking training.
The fire situation looked very serious but could be controlled, an official told PTI on condition of anonymity. He also said the trekkers had not taken the permission or security for going to the deep forest area.
The cause of the fire is still not known.
A 12-member group from Tiruppur and Erode and another comprising 24 people from Chennai, on a trekking camp, reached Kurangani hills yesterday. There were 25 women and three children were present.
After staying overnight at an estate in Kozhukumalai, they started their return journey to the plains today when they heard about the sudden forest fire and got separated while attempting to find a safe way.
Kurangani-Kozhukumalai hills are located near Bodinayakanur, about 40 km from here, Officials of Forest, Fire, Police, medical and rescue teams had gone to the spot and were being assisted by the local tribals and employees of nearby tea estates, Baldev said adding the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel were also engaged in the operations.