Chennai: As many as 10 persons, who had gone trekking, perished in the fire that ravaged the Kurangani hills in Theni in southern Tamil Nadu, while at least half-a-dozen others who sustained third degree burns are still battling for their lives at different hospitals. The toll is likely to go up as doctors said that those with 40 per cent or above burn injuries may not survive. Many of those injured sustained 70 per cent and above burn injuries.
Two teams of trekkers – one an all-women expedition team from Chennai, and another organised by a private tour operator, entered the forests for trekking on Saturday. The two groups, which went their own ways, were climbing down the hills when they got trapped in the forest fire on Sunday evening. In a bid to escape, they ran helter-skelter due to which at least a dozen of them fell into a deep gorge and were charred, rescuers said.
Describing both trekking expeditions as illegal, CM Edappadi K Palaniswami announced a probe into it and offered compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to families of those killed in the inferno. The office of the Chennai Trekking Club which conducted the all-women expedition was abandoned on Monday fearing action. Two of its male guides and two women organisers perished in the fire. The Indian Air Force had to airlift at least eight bodies to the mortuary in Theni. Drones were also deployed to detect bodies. Opposition parties blamed the government saying the forest fire was on for about a week and no steps were taken to put it out. However, government officials rejected the claim and blamed the trekkers for entering the forest without permission.