Theni forest fire: a trek that ended in tragedy

Authorities find Chennai Trekking Club premises deserted

A day after trekkers, many of them women, were caught in the forest fire in Theni, the office of the Chennai Trekking Club, which organised an all-women expedition was deserted.

The Sholinganallur Tahsildar and personnel from the Neelangarai Police Station visited the Palavakkam house, — which served as the Club’s base — within the upscale VGP Layout. They entered the premises through the unlocked gate and inspected the premises.

“I am here to ascertain whether the club has been registered in accordance with the law. We will keep investigating,” said Tahsildar Ezhumalai.

An individual who introduced himself as the caretaker could only say that the CTC held its meetings within the two-storey property.

An individual with knowledge of the matter said that its owners have been attempting to rent out the property for over a month. “There was a ‘To let’ board on the gate; it is missing now,” he said.

The house itself is sparsely furnished; neighbours recalled seeing a board on the pillar adjacent the gate with CTC founder Peter Van Geit’s name and that of the club. All that was left of it on Monday was a rectangular mark of faded paint.

Mr. Van Geit was not available for comments on Monday. He had taken part in a 150 km Chennai-Auroville run over Friday-Saturday, part of a series of events to mark the CTC’s 10th anniversary. Mr. Ramakrishnan said that Mr. Van Geit was on his way to Theni on Monday.

‘Not sans permission’

In a related development, a member of the Chennai Trekking Club claimed that entry into the forest, where nine trekkers have died, is not possible without a permission from the District Forest Officer.

Ramakrishnan E., a member of CTC, said that the trekking team would not have been able to go beyond the forest check post at Kurangani village without appropriate documents.

Mr. Ramakrishnan, who has trekked to the forest in question twice with CTC teams, said that the documents were likely with the deceased leaders of the 27-member CTC team.

“You cannot cross the check post at Kurangani and begin ascending the 6.5 km-high Kulukkumalai without permission from the DFO. I am sure that Arun and Vipin, who led the team and perished in the fire, had the hard copy of this letter on them,” he said.

Mr. Ramakrishnan claimed that all CTC trips were undertaken only after obtaining the requisite permissions. He also said that, due to the presence of women in the group, the trip would have been organised well.

“Vipin was an expert trekker who has even done Himalayan treks. Therefore, the team did not request a guide from the forest department,” said Mr. Ramakrishnan.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 3:37:59 PM |

In This Package
The embers of Kurangani
Fire in the woods: on Theni forest fire tragedy
Satellite-based fire alert didn’t go out to Forest dept.
Forester suspended over Theni wildfire tragedy
Theni forest fire death toll mounts to 11; forest officer suspended, tour guide arrested
Post-Theni tragedy, govt bans forest treks
Survivor recalls miraculous escape while others perished
MIT team pitches in with drones
Elderly couple mourn loss of only child
She died while helping others escape fire
Tahsildar, police inspect office of trekking club
Chennai Trekking Club founder’s antecedents under scanner
‘Reports that the fire has been raging for a week are not true’
Centre-State coordination was key
Estate workers make the difference
Grief-stricken relatives identify bodies of loved ones
Theni forest fire toll up to 10
Theni forest fire: It all started with a panic call
Watch: The Theni forest fire
You are reading Authorities find Chennai Trekking Club premises deserted
Full-fledged probe ordered into Kurangani hills fire accident, says CM
Kamal Haasan hails rescue efforts in Theni
Theni forest fire: An avid trekker bids adieu in the terrains he loved
After Theni forest fire, political leaders urge state govt. to ensure safety of trekkers
Theni forest fire: scenes of inconsolable grief at district mortuary
Theni forest fire: Newly-married woman battles for life, husband dies
Theni forest fire: trekkers being treated for burns at Madurai hospital
Theni forest fire: death toll increases to nine, several hospitalised
Forest fire: 16 Garud commandos, three choppers join rescue mission in Theni
TN forest fire: rescue continues into the night, commandos join in
TN forest fire: a group of strangers caught in the inferno
Five trekkers killed as fires engulf forests in Tamil Nadu
Steps on to rescue those trapped: CM Palaniswami
Next Story