IDUKKI: A 39-member gang consisting of tourists and college students from Tamil Nadu who came to visit Meesapulimala here got trapped in a forest fire. Theni DySP has informed that 9 among these people have died in the incident.
About 25 people have been rescued. According to sources these 36 people consist of 24 girls who came here for trekking training from ITIs in Erode and Salem, and 12 private company employees who arrived from Chennai.
The incident happened in the Korangini forest between the valley of Meesapulimala and the Kolukumala tea estate, which is about 60 km away from Munnar.
According to latest reports, 10 of the injured people are still trapped inside the forest.
The incident was first reported on Sunday by about 6.00 pm, and soon the employees at the tea estate and forest officials rushed to the spot. Nevertheless, the girls who got scared by the fire had disbanded and ran in every directions. Seven of them were found by the villagers and forest officials and were admitted to the Bodinayakanur Government Hospital and Theni Medical College Hospital.
Rajasekhar (29), Bhavana (12), Monisha (30), and Megha (9) from Tiruppur; Sadhna (11) from Erode; Pooja (27) and Sahana (20) from Chennai are the people admitted at the Bodinayakanur Government Hospital.
Though many units of the fire force rushed to the Korangini forest area up on learning about the accident, rescue operations were almost impossible as there was no proper road to the spot where the people got trapped.
Also four helicopters of the Indian Air Force were also deployed for the rescue operations by the Union Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharaman on hearing about the severity of the incident. Nevertheless, the rescue operations using helicopters were also not very effective as it was quite dark and because it was deep forest.Search operations are being conducted by forest officers, police, fire force, revenue officials and the villagers under the leadership of the Theni district collector.The rescue operations are also being disrupted because of the strong winds sweeping the flames of the fire on the slopes of the steep hilly area.
Nirmala Seetharaman has assured that all those who are trapped would be found and taken to Coimbatore in helicopters before Sunset on Monday.Speaking to the media on Sunday, district collector Pallavi Baldev had said that 24 trekkers from the Chennai Trekking Club and 12 from Erode and Tiruppur had gone up the Kurangani Hills.The adventure was part of the Woman's Day activity that was celebrated on Thursday. A Tamil Nadu Forest Department official had said that the organisers had not obtained any permission for the trekking mission.