TN forest fire: Toll climbs to 11; 17 hurt grievously

Indian Air Force has been instructed to help in rescue operations and evacuation

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

The condition of four patients in GRH is highly critical, said it's Dean Dr.D.Maruthu Pandian.

A list of names including the injured and those who are yet to be found was released by the district collector's office, says a report. The victims are being provided with collagen treatment and are on antibiotics, he added.

The city-based group believed to have arranged the ill-fated trekking expedition to Kurangani Hills where 11 members were killed in a forest fire, today claimed the team had received an "entry pass" to proceed with their mission. She said 10 members, including her, took shelter on the other side of the hill and were rescued by about 6.30 pm.

Earlier on Sunday, Palaniswami had requested Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to call in the armed forces to help in the rescue efforts.

D Prabhu, the Erode-based organiser for the trekking, filed the affidavit after the Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Miniter O Panneerselvam told reporters that the trekkers did not have any permission from the forest department. The security cover in the forest will be heightened to prevent such incidents, he said. If a fire line had been created in the area, the trekkers might have escaped. "We are closely monitoring the situation", the official said.

The toll in the forest fire in Theni district has risen to 11 with one more person succumbing to burns even as a forest officer has been suspended and a tour guide arrested. They included 25 women and three children. Responding to questions, the CM said that the trekking expedition was undertaken without permission from forest department.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lauded the Indian Air Force which pressed into service its commandoes and choppers to rescue 30 trekkers as well as douse the flames, and condoled the deaths in the forest fire.

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