Atleast 10 trekkers were killed in a raging forest fire in Kurangani hills reserve near Theni in Tamil Nadu on Sunday. 39 trekkers were trapped in the Theni forest fire.
A Chennai-based trekking club also comprising of 25 women and 3 children had organized an expedition from Kurangani to Bodi in the Western Ghats when the Theni forest fire broke out in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district.
Out of the 39 trekkers trapped in Theni forest fire in deep Kurangani hills reserve, ten of them have died. The ten deceased include four women, four men and a child. 27 people have been rescued and ten of them escaped with minor injuries and other eight of them have serious injuries.
Most of the trekkers were students who have been rescued and were sent to government hospital. Nine trekkers died of burn injuries and search as well as rescue operations for the missing trekkers are on. The trekkers with a group of 27 people from Chennai and another batch of 12 people from Erode and Tirupur were on their way back from a trek to the Kurangani hills when the forest fire broke out.
The trekkers group started their trek on Friday night and reached the Kerala side of the forest by Saturday. They started from Kurangani on the Tamil Nadu border on Sunday morning and they were supposed to reach Bodi by evening and to travel back to Chennai from Theni.
The trekkers from Chennai, Tirupur and Erode got trapped in the Theni forest fire by afternoon. The Air Force has been pressed into service to carry out the rescue operations.
The information was delayed as there was a little or no communication facilities due to lack of mobile phone towers. Tribals and local villagers rushed to the volunteer help and provided very much support to the rescue teams which took time for the rescuers to reach the spot with raging forest fire.
The first reports were obtained from videos shot by some local rescuers on their mobiles showing the victims, with most of them were girls in great pain and crying for water. Few of them had their dresses burnt and their bodies badly burnt with bruises and the visuals were terrible.
The rescue operations faced difficulty because of thick smoke, heat from high flames and poor visibility after sunset. More help was expected and after the instructions from Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman to the IAF and along with the steps taken by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palanisamy, rescue operations were carried out later.
Health Minister C Vijayabhaskar tweeted: “15 people have been rescued from the fire so far. All rescued have been admitted to Bodinayyakanur government hospital for treatment. Special medical teams have been sent to Bodinayyakanur hospital,”. Some of the rescued people suffered severe burn injuries.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in twitter that IAF helicopters will join the rescue operation to rescue the people trapped in fire and this news broke out after 5 pm on Sunday evening.
State fire services got the information from one of the trekking members at around 3 pm and sent many teams into rescue mission immediately.
The photos and videos shared showed the difficulty faced by rescuers to bring the trekkers amid the difficult hillside and raging flames to safety due to tough terrain.
The Forest Department assisted the rescue personnel for saving people from the spot. First aid have been provided to the rescued girls from the forest fire by the medical staff that waited in ambulances on the foothills before they were shifted to the near-by hospitals. Theni collector Mariam Pallavi Baldev visited the rescued women at hospitals and assured all help.
Students from Coimbatore and Erode were undergoing training in Kurangai-Kozhuku Hill area when the forest fire suddenly broke out in the afternoon.
As per the reports, this is the season for forest fire in the dry Western Ghats mostly in Theni and Palani hills. The forest department does not allow any trekking anywhere along the ghats.