At least 9 people were reported dead on Monday in the fire that has engulfed the Kurangani forest near Theni in Tamil Nadu. The people who died in the fire include 4 women, 4 men and a child. So far, 27 people have been rescued from the blazing forest out of which 9 have succumbed to severe burns while 18 are currently undergoing treatment for the serious injuries they have sustained in the fire. The Indian Air Force (IAF) is making relentless efforts in rescuing the people who are still stuck in the forest that caught fire on Sunday. Tamil Nadu CM Edapadi Palani Sami has announced compensation of Rs 4 lakh for next of kin of those died and Rs 1 lakh for people with serious injuries and Rs 50,000 for those with minor injuries.
According to reports, 16 commandos of Garud Commando Force and 4 helicopters from the IAF, with one of them at standby, have reached the Kurangani forest and is carrying out search and rescue operation since Monday morning. The operation is underway and a total 15 people have been rescued from the fire so far in the day. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also provided an update on the ongoing rescue efforts by IAF.
“16 Garuds walked up and reached there (Kurangani forest) at 3 AM. They rescued few people at night. At the moment, the Garuds are trying to lift the dead bodies to a higher plain. 2 helicopters will bring the bodies down. One helicopter has doused the fire,” said the Union Minister.
Speaking to the media on the matter, Theni District Collector Pallavi Baldev said, “Total 37 people in two separate groups reached Kolukkumalai for trekking on Saturday. They camped in an estate and were returning when the fire broke out in the forest. I haven’t got any information on the casualty. 15 people have received burn injuries.”
The fire broke out on Sunday in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district and quickly engulfed a large part of the Kurangani hills reserve where a group of trekkers, 25 people from Chennai and 12 from Erode and Tirupur, were on an expedition from Kurangani to Bodi in the Western Ghats. All the people got stuck in the forest due to the fire prompting large-scale search and rescue operations by both state and central authorities.