Kamal sympathises for Theni forest fire victims

Tamil Nadu At least 20 college students caught in forest fire Air Force to help rescue them

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Two people, who are in critical condition, have been transferred to a specialist hospital in the nearby city of Madurai, said R. Sedhu, a district police official.

Vijaylakshmi, who suffered only minor injuries, was admitted to the Government Taluk Hospital, Bodinayakanur. "Without permission, they embarked on a trekking expedition", he said.

Theni: As many as three days before a wildfire claimed 11 lives in Theni, forest officials were reportedly aware of the raging blaze in the forest.

Baldev, who met the rescued persons and spoke to them, later told reporters that a 12-member group from Tiruppur and Erode and another comprising 24 people from Chennai, on a trekking camp, reached Kurangani hills yesterday.

"There are check-posts in the forest but many people enter through different regions", he said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, officials said the forest department had suspended Jaisingh, the officer on duty when the incident occurred.

The forest department has informed that trekking in the forest area in Kerala has been temporarily suspended owning to the forest fire in Kurangani forest near Kolukumala in Theni. In a significant move, it said it will procure additional blowers based on local needs to beat back any fires that may spring up in the State's forests.

A forest department official said that if they had got the permission from the forest department, they would be asked only to take the approved trekking route with a foot soldier accompanying them.

Earlier, a report from Coimbatore, quoting police, said two IAF "Sarang" helicopters from Sulur have left for Kurangani forest. "Our team was already downhill of Kolukkumalai, trying to put out the fire", he said.

The choppers then airlifted the bodies to a temporary helipad erected in the playground of a private college, following which these were taken to the Theni Medical College Hospital for post-mortem.

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