Theni forest fire: death toll increases to 10

Tamil Nadu Health Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan visits the ward where victims with severe burn injuries are being treated at the Madurai Government Rajaji Hospital, March 12, 2018

Tamil Nadu Health Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan visits the ward where victims with severe burn injuries are being treated at the Madurai Government Rajaji Hospital, March 12, 2018   | Photo Credit: G. Moorthy

CM Palanaswami announces ₹4 lakh solatium to next of kin of deceased

A group of 39 trekkers, comprising mostly women, were trapped in a forest fire in the hills above Kurangani, a tourist spot in the Western Ghats of Theni district, on Sunday evening. Among them, ten were confirmed dead on Monday morning by the State government.

According to preliminary reports, the victims were climbing down the hills from Munnar in Kerala to Theni on their own.

It is the forest fire season in the dry Western Ghats, especially in the Theni and Palani hills and the forest department does not allow any trekking anywhere along the ghats.

For details, persons can contact the Madurai GRH at 9445000586 and 9994793321. For Theni GH, 0454-6263617.

 

Ministers K.A. Sengottaiyan and K.C. Karuppan went to Erode and paid homage to the bodies of two victims, Vivek and Tamil Selvan, killed in the wild fire at Theni. While Tamil Selvan's body is cremated,  Vivek's body is to be cremated at Kavindapadi in Erode district.

The body of Dhivya of Kodumudi who works in Chennai was also cremated.

Theni forest fire: death toll increases to 10
 

 

Toll touches 10; CM says action against expedition organisers

The toll in the forest fire in Theni district rose to 10 on Monday as the Tamil Nadu government ordered a probe into it and assured action against those who allegedly arranged for the expedition without permission.

Chief Minister K. Palaniswami said 10 persons — seven women and three men — were killed in the fire at Kurangani Hill ranges in Western Ghats and expressed grief over the deaths.

While seven of the victims were from Chennai, others were from Erode district, he said in a statement.

“I was anguished to know that 10 persons were killed in the forest fire,” the Chief Minister said.

Mr. Palaniswami announced a solatium of ₹4 lakh to each of the families of the deceased, ₹1 lakh to the grievously injured and ₹50,000 to those with simple injuries.

While directing a probe into the incident, the Chief Minister said action should be initiated against those who arranged for the trek without the Forest Department’s permission.

The district administration and health department officials had been instructed to ensure best medical treatment to those admitted to local hospitals, he said.

He also prayed for their swift recovery.

“Without permission, they embarked on a trekking expedition. Trekkers should climb hills only after taking the government’s nod,” he said earlier in the day in his native Salem district.

The Chief Minister also warned that stern action would be taken in future against trekkers who undertake such expeditions without the State’s permission.

 

Trekking organiser’s office in Chennai found closed

A ‘volunteer’ organisation that is believed to have arranged the ill-fated trekking expedition of a 36-member group in Theni district has been found closed in Chennai, police said on Monday.

Police said a couple of officials were deputed to make enquiries at the office of the group at Palavakkam in Chennai, but found it to be closed.

The website of the organisation also did not have details of those managing its affairs. Splashed with photographs of trekking by various teams, some clean up drives and adventure pictures besides references to some social initiatives, the website, however, did not mention of any contact number.

The ‘Contact Us’ column merely gave out an e-mail id while the group claimed itself to be a “non-profit, volunteer based group which organises outdoor, sports, environmental conservation and social activities throughout the year on weekends and weekday mornings”.

It claimed having 40,000-odd members and that all its activities are “free [and] expenses shared equally among participants”. — PTI

 

Scenes of inconsolable grief

The deceased have been identified as S. Subha (28), a native of Thittakudi in Cuddalore district presently working in a software company in Chennai; D. Vibin (30), a native of Nagercoil reportedly residing in Coimbatore at present; R. Arun Prabhakaran, presently residing in Chennai whose family hailed from Maharajapuram near Watrap in Virudhunagar district; N. Vivek (27) from Erode; K, Akila (25), a native of Kumbakonam presently working in Chennai; M. Divya (25) from Erode; and Punitha, Hemalatha and Tamilselvan from Erode.

As of 2 p.m., the post-mortem of three bodies were completed and handed over to their families. Hospital sources said that the identities of other bodies were yet to be confirmed by their family members, following which the post-mortem will be carried out.

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The story of Divya and Vivek

 

Divya and Vivek tied the knot four months ago. Photo: Special Arrangement

Divya and Vivek tied the knot four months ago. Photo: Special Arrangement  

 

Childhood sweethearts Divya and Vivek were preparing to fly out to Dubai to start a new life. The couple had come on a pleasure trekking trip to Kurangani forest in Theni district.

On Monday, Vivek died following severe burn injuries and Divya is still battling for life at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai.

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Rescue operations, challenging terrain

A video released by the IAF rescue ops in Tamilnadu shows the extent of the fire and the challenging terrain amidst which rescue operations are taking place.

 

 

 

Two victims in 'highly critical' condition

Our correspondent S. Sundar reports:

The condition of two of the victims admitted to the Government Rajaji Hospital here is highly critical.

“The condition of two patients here is highly critical,” said the Dean of Government Rajaji Hospital, D. Maruthu Pandian.

 “We have kept ambulances ready at Madurai airport to respond quickly if any new patient is airlifted from Theni,” he said.

Theni district administration has declared that nine trekkers, six from Chennai and three from Erode district, have been killed in the accident.

 

Air Force completes rescue operation

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has stated that it has completed the rescue operation. Choppers are headed towards some other nearby area where a forest fire has been reported. "After dousing the fire, the Air Force will stop the operation only as per the request and directions from the State civil administration," the IAF has stated.

 

 

Nine being treated at Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai

Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan on Monday said that efforts are on to save the lives of trekkers, some of whom have been admitted with severe burn injuries, at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai. Mr. Radhakrishnan inspected the facilities for burn victims with severe injuries at the Government Rajaji Hospital, a referral centre for southern TN districts, following the forest fire at Theni. Nine trekkers are being treated at the hospital.

Six have been admitted to private hospitals like Meenakshi Mission, Apollo Hospital and Grace Kennett Foundation.

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Nine confirmed dead

Nine people, who were part of a trekking expedition, have been killed in a forest fire in the Western Ghats, the Tamil Nadu government said on Monday. “Nine persons are dead, while 17 of the rescued have been hospitalised and 10 did not require hospitalisation,” Commissioner of Revenue Administration K Sathyagopal told reporters. Among the dead, six were from Chennai and three from Erode, local police said.

A statement from the Theni Collector released the names of the dead - Akila, Premalatha, Punitha, Subha, Arun, Bipin (all from Chennai), Vijaya, Vivek, Tamizh selvi (from Erode).

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As per inputs from the ground, fire is under control. Now the commandos are trying to find the remaining dead bodies in the area. The rescue operation was delayed owing to dust and ash. Vision was not clear according to pilots, said forest officials. More than 250 people are part of the rescue operation.

 

16 Garud commandos, three choppers join rescue mission

The Southern Air Command (SAC) of the Indian Air Force sent 16 garud commandos and three choppers to Bodi where a group of trekkers is stranded in the midst of a forest fire that struck on Sunday. One helicopter has been kept on standby.

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Rescue continues into the night, commandos join in

Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who stepped in early on Sunday evening to coordinate rescue operations with State agencies, told The Hindu that the crew of an Indian Air Force helicopter which surveyed the forest fires in Theni had seen people beaming torch lights to give distress signals about their presence and location.

Read more

 

 

A group of strangers caught in the inferno

With trekkers from different parts of the State assembling in Theni on Friday and Saturday, there is still confusion on the exact number of people trapped in the massive forest fire in Kurangani. Many trekkers were meeting each other for the first time and belonged to different age groups. It was unclear if they were taken by any trekking club or had gone on their own.

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Steps on to rescue those trapped: CM Palaniswami

Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said the State government had taken all steps on a war footing to rescue those trapped in the forest fire at Kurangani hills in Theni.

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Trekkers aged between 8 and 30 years

"From the information we have about 40 students were climbing downhill from Munnar after parking their vehicle. It seems they were planning to trek down to Bodi town but were trapped in the forest fire," said H. Basavaraju, Principal Conservator of Forests, Tamil Nadu. 

"We sent a team of forty forest personnel for the rescue. The first team led by an ACF has made contact with 15 persons, 14 boys and one girl," he said adding that the other teams are on their way to rescue the remaining students. Apart from the forest personnel, fire and medical teams have also rushed to the hills for the rescue operation, he added.

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IAF pressed into action

The Indian Air Force (IAF) had been pressed into action to rescue several students caught in a forest fire near Kurangani hills in Theni district of Tamil Nadu, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharman said. In a tweet, she also said that the Southern Command was in touch with the Theni Collector.

One MI-17 helicopter was en route from Sulur to assess the situation and provide necessary assistance, sources in the Defence Ministry said, adding that the helicopter may undertake another operation on Monday morning, if needed.

Several students are trapped in a major forest fire near the Kurangani hills in Theni district of Tamil Nadu on Sunday.

Several students are trapped in a major forest fire near the Kurangani hills in Theni district of Tamil Nadu on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

 

Fire tenders have also reached the spot.

Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam is rushing to the spot to take stock of the situation.

 

Most of them have been rescued, says TN CM

On the sidelines of another event in Salem, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said most of the people trapped in the forest have been rescued and only 10 of them are pending. He expressed confidence that all of them will be rescued.

Alleging that miscreants were behind the fire at Kurangani, Mr. Palaniswami said forest department will strengthen security in forest areas after a review.

 

Medicines, food sent

A statement released by P.S. Rajasekharan, Deputy Director, Police Information Centre, PHQ, said, the State Police Chief Loknath Behera has asked the Idukkki district Police Chief to give all assistance in rescue operation and the Idukki Police led by DySP Munnar have already gone to the site.

"Medicines and food also have been sent to the spot. The SPC has also spoken to the Tamilnadu DGP and assured all help. The SPC has also requested the DG and Commandant of Fire and Rescue Services, Kerala for all possible assistance," Mr. Rajasekharan's statement read.

 

Five feared dead

At least five people, including girls, were feared dead and many others injured among the group of trekkers – aged between 8 and 20 years.

However, Inspector General of Police (South Zone), Shailesh Kumar Yadav told The Hindu that bodies of nine women and one boy were found so far.

(With inputs from B. Aravind Kumar in Chennai, K. Raju in Theni , Sanjana Ganesh in Madurai, Wilson Thomas in Coimbatore, PTI)

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Printable version | May 22, 2020 4:59:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/live-tamil-nadu-forest-fire-updates/article23040769.ece

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