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Forest fire in India claims lives of ten trekkers

Forest fire in India claims lives of nine trekkers







Story by Sagaya Fernando

Mumbai: March 12, 2018




At least ten people, four women, four men and one child, were charred to death in Kurangani area in Theni district of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu in a forest fire on March 11. 

Thirty-seven people, mostly students, consisting of 26 women, 8 men and 3 children were part of the trek, and they were coming down the slopes from Bodinayyakanur when they got trapped in the forest fire, say district officials.

As of 6 am on Monday, 27 people were rescued and at least 8 of them have suffered severe burn injuries. Many survivors are reported to be in critical condition.

Of the two trekkers group, one was of 13 people hailing from Tirupur and Erode, and another group of 24 people was from Chennai. The Chennai group had started the trek to Theni on March 9.

Many of them were believed to be college students, IT employees, and families with children. The trekking was organized by a Chennai-based trekking club to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Many of panicked trekkers jumped on to boulders from a height to escape the blaze. A video taken by one of the rescuers shows disturbing visuals of some women lying charred unable to move and pleading for help. Another video shows local villagers bringing down a couple of women who are dazed and shocked, safely.

“Those rescued by teams that had been combing the forests have been taken to a hospital in Bodinayakkanur and the three children in the group are reported to be stable and not in any danger,” informed Conservator of Forests (Madurai Circle) R K Jagenia.

Theni District Collector Pallavi Baldev said, "The group reached Kollukumalai on Saturday morning. They had camped in an estate and were returning when they got caught in the forest fire. They panicked and the group got scattered. All government machinery has been pressed into action. Rescue operations have been expedited."

The Collector added that the rescue of others struck in the area has become very difficult in the night due to lack of adequate lighting facilities.

Locals and residents of the nearby village had gotten to know about the fire in the afternoon, around 3:30 pm. According to a person from the rescue team who spoke to the media, about 200 locals helped in the rescue efforts. On Monday, Indian Air Force helicopters too joined the rescue efforts to airlift the stranded and injured trekkers.

People who organise treks in this region said that this was not the right time for trekking in these regions that were prone to sudden fires due to the dry conditions.

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