Kerala bans trekking to Kurangani hills till clearing of fire lines

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The death of nine trekkers in Tamil Nadu's Theni district was a tragedy waiting to happen with rising forest fires emerging as a threat to environment and life in the state and across the country.

Ten trekkers died in the fire. A report said that a trekker from Chennai, Vijayalakshmi, who escaped with minor burns was instrumental in sending SOS to the local people.

The dead included Chennai-based Akila, Premalatha, Punitha, Subha, Arun and Vipin and Erode's Vijaya, Vivek and Tamilselvi. Mr Jayaram said forest fire would not be visible during day time but its effect could be felt in surrounding areas.

The condition of four patients in GRH is highly critical, said it's Dean Dr.D.Maruthu Pandian. Several people are feared to be trapped inside the forest. Eight trekkers were sent to the circuit house.

Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purhohit on Tuesday visited the Madurai Government Hospital and consoled the family members of the injured.

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Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam met the injured at Bodi public hospital. "The forest officials took Rs 200 from us as entry fee", said one of the rescued trekkers Prabhu.

"The forest department not issuing alerts and not preventing them (trekkers) from undertaking the expedition is the reason for the loss of lives", he said. "Without permission, they embarked on a trekking expedition".

Two groups of 36 tourists, mostly women, were on a trekking expedition to Karunkani hills and were caught in a forest fire. They were supposed to return on Sunday. Their plight came to light only in the evening prompting the Central and state governments to launch a massive rescue operation.

The Kurangani-Kozhukumalai hills in the Western Ghats are located near Bodinayakanur, about 40km from Theni.

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