Chennai: At least 10 trekkers, including five women and a child, were confirmed dead and six were in a critical condition on Monday after being trapped in a massive forest fire in Kurangani hills of Tamil Nadu on Sunday.
The 10 were part of a group of 36 from Erode, Tiruppur and Chennai who had gone for a trek to Kurangani hills. “Twenty-five women, eight men and three children travelled to the region for a trek,” Theni district collector Mariam Pallavi Baldev said.
Earlier on Monday, the Tamil Nadu government said 27 people had been rescued. By evening, the death toll increased to 10 following the death of 30-year old T. Nisha from Chennai who had sustained 100% burns.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) deployed four helicopters and 16 commandos for the rescue operation. The forest departments, police, and local officials were also involved in the rescue operations, assisted by locals and employees of nearby tea estates.
“At early dawn today, IAF helicopters recovered all bodies and took them to the district hospital. Some of the bodies were lying in crevices on steep rocky slopes. As slope was acute, landing of helicopters was difficult & rescue could only be done through winching,” said defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a tweet.
The search and rescue operation began on Sunday evening. A total of six teams were inside the Kurangani forest area to provide first aid to surviving trekkers, who were moved to government hospitals in Theni and Madurai districts.
“Among those rescued, six persons are very critical. While two have more than 90% burns, others have 60% burns,” said health secretary J. Radhakrishnan.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said the government would investigate the trekking expedition organized by a Chennai-based club, which did not take approval from the forest department.
The group of amateur trekkers from Chennai, Coimbatore, Tiruppur and Erode were climbing down the hill in the Western Ghats on Sunday when the fire spread.
Following the incident, the Kerala government banned trekking in forest regions until further notice. A ban on trekking was already in force in the forests of Wayanad district in anticipation of heat waves and fires.livemint