Theni fire toll mounts to 14

By PTI Published on Mar 16, 2018 12:55 PM IST

Theni: The toll in the devastating fire at Kurangani forests in the district has risen to 14 with three more victim succumbing to injuries at hospitals in Madurai, police said.

While Divya Viswanathan of Coimbatore district, died at a private hospital, Kannan, a native of Kavundan Palayam in Erode and Anuvidhya of Chennai died at the Government Rajaji hospital, police said. Of the 14 killed in the fire, 10 are women.

The forest department has suspended forest officer Jaisingh in connection with the incident. 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 team included 25 women and three children. 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 police yesterday registered a case 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.

Official had yesterday said search operations have concluded as all the trekkers have been accounted for. Tamilnadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami had announced a solatium of Rs 4 lakh to each of the families of the deceased, Rs one lakh to the seriously injured and Rs 50,000 to those with simple injuries.