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A Chennai-based trekking club had organised the expedition from Kurangani to Bodi in the Western Ghats. The groups started the trek on Friday night and reached the Kerala side of the forest by Saturday. They started the trek from Kurangani on the Tamil Nadu border on Sunday morning. They were supposed to reach Bodi by evening and travel back to Chennai from Theni.
However, by afternoon the trekkers were caught in the forest fire. The forest department is clueless about the expedition because the club had not obtained its permission for the trek. Conservator of forests, Madurai Circle, R K Jegania said it was an illegal trekking expedition. “As preliminary information, we have learnt that five trekkers are dead and some are missing. Our staff members are coordinating the rescue operations uphill,” he said.
Forest department sources from the spot said they were trying their best to bring the injured downhill. Around 16 of them have been taken to different places.
“First aid teams have come up, and we are providing first aid to the injured persons. We are trying to take them down with the help of local villagers, but the task is challenging,” a forest department staff member said from the spot.
Forest, fire and police department staff have rushed to the spot. By evening, the Theni district administration sought the help of the Indian Air Force for rescue operations.
Theni collector Pallavi Baldev said all government machinery has been pressed into action. Rescue operations have been expedited. “As of now, I have not got any information on loss of life. Fifteen people have suffered burn injuries,” she said.
Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said the government would order a probe into the trekking expedition organised by the Chennai-based club without approval from the forest department.