Theni fire: State Government refutes, organisers claim that trekkers had permit

Pauline Gross
March 14, 2018

Both the organisers came under scanner after Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said that the trekkers entered the forest without taking permission. I wish them all the best for recovery and rehabilitation.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Raghuveer said in a statement that the department will involve all stakeholders including government employees, Green Brigade members and Haritha Rakshana Samithies in its efforts to prevent forest fires.

A confidential internal CTC mail available with DC, shared by one of the former members, had revealed that the CTC founder Peter Van Geit, a Belgian national settled in India, had organised several treks without forest department permission.

In wake of the forest fire near Kurangani hills of Tamil Nadu, trekking in the area has been temporarily prohibited.

Chennai natives Akhila, Premalata, Shuba, Punita, Vipin and Arun; and Erode natives Vijay, Vivek, and Tamilselvi have been identified among the dead.

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The DC confirmed that among the deceased are four women, four men, and a child.

The fires were raging for the past 15 days, but the forest department had also not issued any alerts, he alleged. In the absence of permission, they did not have forest watcher to guide them which means there was no one there who knew the terrain well. There have also questions raised over whether the forest department ignored alerts about the fire and whether the rescue was made in time.

In Chennai, police said attempts at enquiries at the office of the "volunteer" organisation believed to have arranged the ill-fated expedition had drawn a blank.

According to the website, the CTC is a non-profit, volunteer group which organises outdoor sports, environmental conservation and social activities throughout the year on weekends and weekday mornings. Kolukkumalai close to the Kurangini area in Theni district.

A total of 29 people were rescued, but at least nine among them suffered serious burn injuries and the death toll could rise, Baldev added.

Other reports by GizPress

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