9 trekkers killed in Tamil Nadu forest fire, rescue ops on

9 trekkers killed in Tamil Nadu forest fire, rescue ops on

The fire broke out Sunday when a group of 40 people, mostly college students, went trekking in Kurangini hills, some 540 km from state capital Chennai.

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

The rescue operations are underway and further details including the detailed cause of the fire is awaited. The rescue operations were over and the fire has been put off, said sources. "I am sure the leaders of the CTC team, both Arun and Vipin died in the fire, would have certainly got the permission", he said, adding that all the expedition of the CTC would be undertaken with all the permissions.

Speaking to the media, Theni District Collector Pallavi Baldev said 15 persons have been rescued and search is on for others. "One helicopter has doused the fire", Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told ANI.

Conservator of Forests (Madurai Circle) RK Jegania told The Times of India that it was an "illegal trekking expedition".

"Ten commandos will move to Madurai by a helicopter from Sulur Air Force base and trek to the spot in the night".

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The students, who are from Erode and Coimbatore, were trekking in the Kurangani Hills when they got caught in the fire. The security cover in the forest will be heightened to prevent such incidents, he said.

Chief Minister Edappadi K.Palaniswamy is rushing to Theni to console the families of the deceased, officials said.

While initial reports said those trapped were students, officials later said the victims, belonging to two groups, were young women and men and three children who were on a mountain climbing/trekking training.

The military was deployed to help with rescue efforts after the state government asked for assistance.

The adventure was part of the Woman's Day activity that was celebrated on Thursday.

Baldev said there is no motorable road to the spot where the fire raged. The forest department, along with the hill area authorities, can easily mark safe trekking routes, and only these should be used by trekkers.