Massive forest fire breaks out in Tamil Nadu, 20 students trapped

Violet Powell
March 12, 2018

The students, who are from Erode and Coimbatore, were trekking in the Kurangani Hills when they got caught in the fire.

At least 65 trekkers, many of them believed to be college students, IT employees and families with children from Chennai, Coimbatore and Tirupur, were trapped Sunday in a fire that swept through the Theni forest in Tamil Nadu, bordering Kerala. By evening, the Theni district administration sought the help of the Indian Air Force for rescue operations.

Additionally, 13 people from the scattered group have been located and officials from the fire and forest departments are administering first aid to them. "As the fire surrounded us, we all got split and some of us jumped into a pit and escaped", she said, adding that they did not know what happened to other as one of the local person guided them to safety. In a tweet, she also said that the Southern Command was in touch with the Theni Collector.

But local media reports said the number was around 40, and that the students were female. "They are coming down the hill", tweeted Sitharaman. The helicopter will carry out a survey on the spread of the fire and its intensity. "Ambulances are positioned", she said.

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The rescue operation is still continuing.

It is suspected that the fire was caused by a cigarette butt discarded by one of the tourists. Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has rushed to the spot from Chennai. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has been sent to Kurangani hills in Top Station near Kurangani to rescue the trapped students.

The three children in the trekking party - Neha (9), Sadhana (11) and Bhavana (12) - have been rescued and haven't suffered critical injuries. Fire tenders have also reached Kurankani hills in Theni to rescue the students. Firefighters, forest officials, police, have been called from neighbouring districts with necessary equipment.

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