Operation on to rescue trekkers in TN forest fire

She wrote, "IAF has been contacted by Thenani district Collector of the Honorable K Palaniswami in the process of recovering about 20-25 trapped students in the Kurangani hills in Theni District".

Chennai: Authorities in Tamil Nadu were engaged in a massive operation on Sunday to rescue some students caught in a forest fire in Theni district, with defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman saying the Indian Air Force (IAF) has also been pressed into service. "Operation continues", Sitharaman said in her tweets.

Forest department sources from the spot said they were trying their best to bring the injured downhill.

"I spoke to the Theni Collector and we have flawless coordination with the district officials". While the children have been rescued, Shaktikala is reportedly still trapped and may have suffered burns in the fire, her mother said. They will stay in touch through Global Positioning System and satellite phones until four helicopters are sent to rescue those stranded.

Baldev, who met the rescued persons and spoke to them, later told reporters that a 12-member group from Tiruppur and Erode and another comprising 24 people from Chennai, on a trekking camp, reached Kurangani hills yesterday. The sudden spread of fire trapped them.

Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam is rushing to the spot to take stock of the situation. Search and rescue operations for the other missing trekkers are on. So far the cause of the fire is still not known. Senior police officers are monitoring the rescue along with over 200 personnel backed by armed forces, an anti-Naxal squad trained in forest terrain, and health workers, they said.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Theni SP, V Baskaran, said, "A special team of forest and police officers has reached the spot where most of the trekkers are stranded". Firefighters, forest officials, police, have been called from neighbouring districts with necessary equipment.

Vanessa Coleman

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