Trekkers Killed, 18 Injured In Theni Forest Fire In Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu At least 20 college students caught in forest fire Air Force to help rescue them

The city-based group believed to have arranged the ill-fated trekking expedition to Kurangani Hills where 11 members were killed in a forest fire, today claimed the team had received an "entry pass" to proceed with their mission.

According to the minister, two helicopters have been engaged in the task of moving the bodies. Out of 27 people who have been rescued, 10 of them have minor injuries, while 8 of them have serious injuries. The fire has now been doused. What had started as an adventure trip for the trekking group of eight men, 25 women and three children turned into a nightmare on Sunday afternoon as they were caught up in the massive blaze. The defence forces, the personnel of the fire services and police departments have been engaged in the rescue operations, with full vigour.

"The forest department not issuing alerts and not preventing them (trekkers) from undertaking the expedition is the reason for the loss of lives", he said.

Madurai District Collector Veeraraghava Rao said medical teams comprising plastic surgeons have been deployed to provide treatment at the Madurai Government Rajaji Hospital. A total of 17 trekkers including kids were reduced on Sunday till midnight.

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Stating that the cause of the fire was not known, he said efforts would be taken to strengthen the forest area security further. Had it not been for their well-timed intervention, there would have certainly been a higher number of casualties due to the the forest fire.

DMK Working President M.K.Stalin, MDMK General Secretary Vaiko, PMK Founder Dr.S.Ramadoss, former AIADMK leader T.T.V.Dhinakaran among leaders of various political parties condoled the death of trekkers in the forest fire.

The 36-member group - 24 from Chennai and 12 from Tiruppur and Erode districts - had reached the Kurangani hills on March 10. "Always one should go on trekking with the help of the guides or local tribal people after obtaining permission from the forest department officials", said Derin Johnson, the tour operator.

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