Nine trekkers killed in India forest fire

Nellie Chapman
March 13, 2018

Ten persons-seven women and three men- were killed in the fire at Kurangani Hill ranges in Western Ghats on Saturday. "Though we can't confirm the total death toll, one dead body has been brought from the hills and there are other dead bodies as per the rescue team", said health minister C. Vijayabaskar. "Of the rescued, 17 were hospitalised and 10 did not require hospitalisation", Theni district collector Mariam Pallavi Baldev said.

"While starting the trek, it is also ensured that necessary permissions are obtained and the organisers carry the documents with them".

The State Forest Department said it will not allow any unauthorised persons to enter the forest areas, especially in areas that are prone to fires.

The group were hiking through Theni district, a hilly region in southern India thickly forested and dotted with tea plantations, when they were forced to flee a fast-approaching fire.

The fire prompted the government in neighbouring Kerala to order a temporary ban on hiking in the state's forest areas.

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"Kurangani forest fire and its victims is heart rending".

The 36-member team- 24 from Chennai and 12 from Tirupur and Erode districts- had embarked on the trekking expedition and reached the Kurangani hills in the Western Ghats on March 10.

"The forest department not issuing alerts and not preventing them (trekkers) from undertaking the expedition is the reason for the loss of lives", he said. "One of the few who were reachable by phone gave us accurate information on the location of the group", the organisation said. The IAF helicopters recovered all the bodies trapped in the hills to Theni Government hospital's mortuary.

In a series of tweets, she said two helicopters of the Indian Air Force from its Sulur base near Coimbatore were being sent to assist in the rescue operations. "Our team was already downhill of Kolukkumalai, trying to put out the fire", he said.

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