TN announces solatium for forest fire victims


The 36-member team-24 people from Chennai and 12 from Tirupur and Erode districts-had embarked on the trekking expedition and reached Kurangani hills on 10 March.

It may be recalled the state government had said the trekkers had not obtained required permission for the expedition.

Stirring a controversy in the forest fire tragedy that took lives of 9 people in Kurangani forest near Theni in Tamil Nadu, the survivors have claimed that they had the permit to trek from the forest department.

"I was anguished to know that 10 persons were killed in the forest fire", the AIADMK leader said. In the absence of permission, they did not have forest watcher to guide them which means there was no one there who knew the terrain well. And with the forest fire in Tamil Nadu killing the trekkers, the Forest Department has become more strict and has banned trekking.

The police are still questioning Ranjith to find out if he is related to a Chennai-based travel group that allegedly arranged the expedition.

According to officials, those wanting to go on a trekking expedition to such hill ranges have to apply to the conservator of forests or district forest officer in advance. The club's website says it has around 40,000 members as non-profit volunteers and organises hundreds of outdoor, sports, environment and social activities during weekday mornings and weekends.

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Rescue efforts began Sunday, aided by the Indian Air Force and the National Disaster Management, with two helicopters helping to evacuate those stranded. But they too are being denied entry, said a source in the Forest Department.

Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said rescue teams comprising officials and health department personnel were camping in the hills.

About 14 people died and several injured in the forest fire in Theni on Sunday.

A defence press note said 16 Garud commandos were in action since the morning.

"There was no satellite-based forest fire alert,"Siddhanta Das, Director General forests, said".