Theni fire fallout: Politicos want trekking streamlined


Nine trekkers died and 18 others were left with serious burns as wildfires swept through a popular hiking spot in India´s Tamil Nadu state, officials said Monday. Out of ten injured eight women have been admitted to Rajaji Medial College Hospital Madurai and two are admitted in Bodinaickanoor government hospital.

"Special medical teams have been sent to Bodinayyakanur hospital", Health Minister C Vijayabhaskar wrote on his official Twitter page.

As summer months are the peak tourist season, the Department offices across Karnataka are flooded with applications from wildlife enthusiasts seeking permission for trekking.

The team included 25 women and three children, according to Theni district collector Mariam Pallavi Baldev.Three of them had returned to the plains without going ahead further.

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The fires were raging for the past 15 days, but the forest department had also not issued any alerts, he alleged. A probe has been ordered into the cause of the forest fire, Palaniswami said.

It may be recalled the state government had said the trekkers had not obtained required permission for the expedition. Also, she added that "While the trekkers were coming down, they came across a forest fire and the group broke up".

A Chennai-based trekking club had organised the expedition from Kurangani to Bodi in the Western Ghats for a group of 27 people from Chennai and 12 people from Erode and Tirupar.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, officials said the forest department had suspended Jaisingh, the officer on duty when the incident occurred.

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On Saturday morning when the group started to trek, there was no sign of fire in the entire forest range and by evening it had reached Kollukumalai tea estate at the top and camped there, it said.

Forest fires are uncommon in India.

Four helicopters of the IAF and their 10 commandos are involved in the rescue operation, according to a tweet by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. "Our team was already downhill of Kolukkumalai, trying to put out the fire", he said.

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