9 killed in Theni forest fire, 6 from Chennai

By NT Bureau Published on Mar 12, 2018 04:49 PM IST

Chennai: Nine people who were part of a trekking expedition have been confirmed dead so far, including six from Chennai after they were caught in a forest fire that swept through Kurangani area of Theni district in the Western Ghats. Reports say that around 10 people are in critical condition battling for life with over 70 per cent burn injuries on their body.


In a coordinated search-and-rescue effort, the Indian Air Force has rescued and brought back 27 of the 36 trapped students, as per last reports. The rescue operations were over and the fire has been put off, said sources.

The mortal remains of nine students, who were unfortunately deceased in the fire, have also been brought back by the IAF.

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 by today. He is said to be rushing to Theni and Madurai to meet victims and to supervise relief measures.


Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, 'Sixteen Garuds with medical team walked up and reached the trapped victims at 3 am.

They rescued and provided first aid to a few people at night. A total of three IAF hecliopters were pressed into services to retrive the bodies and one helicopter was used to douse the fire. The bodies of the deceased were taken to a higher plain from where they were airlifted.'


District Collector Theni, 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 trek organised by a Chennai based trekking club had 37 participants comprised mostly of students and working professionals of which 26 were women, eight-men and three-children.

Minister for Forests, Dindigul Sreenivaasan has accused the group of conducting the trek without getting any permission.

"'If we are informed in advance, we will give them the necessary arrangements. A simple guide will not do. There are many places in the forest that are restricted," he said.

Vipin Damotharan

Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam too made a similar charge and said probe will be conducted after rescue operations.

"There are check-posts in the forest but many people enter through different regions. We are still not sure if they had the permission or not. We have been warning people about the forest fire. Awareness programmes are also being conducted," Pallavi Baldev said.


Reports say that two trekking groups, one consisting of 13 people hailing from Tiruppur and Erode, and another group of 24 people from Chennai were coming down the slopes from Bodinayyakanur when they got trapped in the forest fire. The group from Chennai started from here on 9 March.


The three other deceased  from Erode included a recently married couple Vivek and Vijaya and a the third person now identified  as Tamilselvi.

CTC founder Peter Van Geit

A total of 27 people were rescued of which 10 did not suffer any injuries or burns and were transported back to their respective homes.

Newlywed couple Divya and Vivek

Of the 17 injured, eight were admitted to Madurai Government Hospital and five in private hospital, while four others were being treated at Theni Government Hospital.

Akhila (Chennai)

Premalatha (Chennai)

Punitha (Chennai)

Subha (Chennai)

Arun (Chennai)

Vipin (Chennai)

Tamilselvi (Chennai)

Vivek (Erode)

Vijaya (Erode)

Anuvidya (Chennai)

Nisha (Chennai)

Kannan (Erode)

Divya (Erode)

Devi (Salem)

Meena (Kerala)

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