Death toll in Kurangani forest fire rises to 16

By PTI Published on Mar 17, 2018 10:55 AM IST

Theni: The toll in the devastating fire at Kurangani forests in the district rose to 16 with the death of two more women in private hospitals yesterday, police said.

The deceased were identified as Sakthikala and Devi, police said. Of the 16 killed in the fire, 12 are women. A 36-member team - 24 people from Chennai and 12 from Tiruppur and Erode districts - had embarked on the trekking expedition and reached Kurangani hills on 10 March.

The trekkers after staying at an estate in Kozhukumalai overnight, started their return journey to the plains Sunday morning when they heard of the sudden forest fire and got separated while attempting to find a safe way.

The trekkers were caught in the forest fire in Kurangani Kozhukumalai hill ranges near Theni, some 500 km away from Chennai.

The hills are in the Western Ghats near Bodinayakanur, about 40 km from Theni. The forest department has suspended forest officer Jaisingh in connection with the incident.

A case was also registered against Peter Van Geit, the owner of the Chennai based Trekking club believed to have arranged the trekking expedition to Kurangani Hills.

He has been charged under IPC 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), police said. Two persons, including an agent of the club at Erode, have been arrested in connection with the trekking programme.