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Kerala bans trekking in forests after Theni wildfire tragedy

Kerala bans trekking in forests after Theni wildfire tragedy

The death toll has increased to 10 after massive forest fire broke out suddenly in a hill in Tamil Nadu trapping 36 trekkers, majority women, with 15 being rescued till late on Monday.

The fire began Sunday afternoon in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, sweeping quickly through the Kurangani hills area, a popular destination for tourists.

Chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami also assured action against those who allegedly arranged for the trekking expedition without permission.

With no escape route in sight, all she and another girl could spot was a "valley-like" formation and they immediately jumped there to avoid the fire, she said even as others "fell" on them but sustained burns. As many as nine persons who suffered serious burns have been shifted to Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai.

Health secretary J. Radhakrishnan said rescue teams of officials and health department personnel were camping in the hills. Besides, the permission was given only if the trekkers had proper guides from the area, they added.

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"Four men, four women and a girl child died in the fire". A total of 27 trekkers were rescued from the fire in picturesque Theni district. A probe has been ordered into the cause of the forest fire, Palaniswami said.

In the backdrop of the wildfire in Theni, the forest department banned trekking in Kerala's forest regions. He said the forest fire was reported in the Kurangani Hills for the past 15 days but the Forest Department had not issued any prior warning notice.

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

It further said there was "no organisational hierarchy in any of the activities or events organised by CTC".

Relatives of the hikers grieve outside the hospital in Theni. "While one body was recovered earlier, the air force helicopters recovered 8 more bodies after which the search and rescue was concluded", said Theni collectorate sources. Efforts were taken to bring down the bodies and rescue mission is still on.