Theni forest fire: a trek that ended in tragedy

Theni forest fire: scenes of inconsolable grief at district mortuary

Relatives of the trekkers who died in the Korangani reserve forest fire wail outside the Theni Government Medical College hospital, in Theni on Monday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The mortuary at the Government Medical College hospital in Theni district witnessed scenes of inconsolable grief on Monday as family members and relatives of the nine persons, who were killed in the wildfire at Kurangani on Sunday afternoon, were subjected to the difficult task of identifying the charred bodies of the victims.

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.

Selvaraj, Subha's father, who was wailing inconsolably, said that her daughter informed him that she was going on a trekking expedition organised by her company. “Since she told me that her company was organising it, I thought that they must have carefully undertaken all security measures,” he said.

Natarajan, Vivek's father, said that his son was working in a Middle-Eastern country and had returned only few months ago for his marriage. “He recently got married. His wife Divya, who also took part in the trek, is presently admitted at Government Rajaji Hospital with burn injuries,” he said.

Earlier, one of the bodies that was brought down from the hill was shifted to the mortuary here in an ambulance while the remaining eight were air-lifted from the hill to the Theni Medical College hospital.

According to a senior administrative official at the government hospital in Bodinaickanur near Kurangani, where many of the rescued people were brought first on Sunday night, there were a total of 36 people involved in the trek in two groups. “Twelve people were brought here on Sunday night, of which ten had minor injuries and were treated as outpatients. Remaining two were referred to hospitals in Theni and Madurai,” he said.

Barring the nine deceased and ten treated as outpatients, the remaining 17 people are presently being treated at hospitals in Madurai and Theni.

Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam visited the incident spot in the morning. Later, he and Forest Minister Dindigul C Sreenivasan inspected the Government Medical College in Theni.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary K. Balakrishnan, AIDWA national vice-president U. Vasuki and other leaders from CPI (M) visited the Theni hospital. Speaking to the media, Mr. Balakrishnan blamed the State government for inadequate security arrangements at the place.

“The locals say that wildfire is a routine affair there. Why were no steps taken to control the fire,” he asked. He added that the non-filling of large number of vacancies in Forest Department was also a reason for inefficiencies in tackling such situations.

Demanding an enquiry by a high-level committee, he said that Tamil Nadu government must also award a compensation of ₹25 lakh for the deceased and ₹5 lakh for the injured.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 9:40:02 PM |

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