IAS officer to probe the Theni forestfire

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"Indian Air Force choppers were pressed into service Sunday night".

State Health Minister C Vijayabaskar, in a tweet, said 15 of those trapped in the Kurangani hills had been rescued and were being treated for injuries at the government hospital in Bodinayakanur in the district in southern Tamil Nadu. D Maruthupandian, dean, Rajaji hospital told reporters that while one woman has suffered only 35 percent burns, but the condition of eight others is serious. With the death of one more person at the Hospital in the evening, the number of people who had died in the tragedy rose to 10.

The fire broke out in the Kurangani hills in the district of Theni, where a group of 24 people, mostly women, were returning from a trek organized to mark last week's International Women's Day.

Only three of the 39 expedition members - most of whom were young professionals - were not at the scene and escaped unscathed.

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The Chennai Trekking Club was not allowed to take novices to the expedition, they said. There have also questions raised over whether the forest department ignored alerts about the fire and whether the rescue was made in time. The inquiry officer has been tasked with submitting a report to the government within two months, along with recommendations to avoid such incidents in future, a March 13 Government Order said. They are investigating how the trekking group came in touch with him.

A salute to all the air warriors and other ground teams, who worked collectively to rescue the stranded trekkers.

Independent legislator and sidelined AIADMK leader T.T.V. Dinakaran said the careless attitude of the Forest Department was the main reason for the deaths. The trekking expedition was organised by the CTC, an online group of over 40,000 members. The minister said the officials might have provided adequate security to the trekkers if they had sought permission. The IAF mounted a search and rescue operation on Sunday.

The team included 25 women and three children, according to Theni district collector Mariam Pallavi Baldev.