In Kolukkumalai area close to Kurangini in Theni district on Sunday, a group of trekkers struck in southern Tamil Nadu, as forest fires killed at least five girls and left many others injured and still counting.
Aged between 8 and 30 years, the trekkers were trapped in the intense blaze that swept through the remote forests in the Western Ghats, rescuers had to struggle a lot to reach them.
As per the administration and officials, the identities of the deceased could not be identified as the bodies were burnt beyond recognition.
The group of 37 comprised 26 women, three children, and eight men, The Collector of Theni the district in charge, Pallavi Baldev told journalists in the press release confirmation based on the first information report available at their unit in action.
Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman took the matter on a serious note raising an alarm through the ministries and departments to take immediate action and measures to take urgent control of the situation.
However, based on the interview to the press, Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan stated the authentic communication between the administration there by the locals were the prime source of information about this mishap.
While the injured were shifted to the Bodi GH, claims have been made that many other girls are struck in the uphill region and would be in need of the support from the rescue team within time.
The rescue operations had to be slow down after daylight and due to un-friendly terrain, there are many limitations to the rescue operative group. The communication was cut off in the affected area due to unavailability of the mobile networks and the rescuers managed with wireless systems.
The trekkers as per their verbal reports and plan of activity had gone up to the Kolukkumalai on Saturday and were climbing down on Sunday afternoon without being aware of the tragedy yet to come. According to locals, forest fires have been raging for the past one week in Bodi and Theni hills, the particular hill in discussion here, and the intensity was much higher than previous years which could be a major reason behind the raging of a massive fire.
H. Basavaraju, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Tamil Nadu, with a diplomatic stand stated “They did not take permission from Forest Department. We sent a team of 40 forest personnel for the rescue.”