A minimum of 20 students were feared to be trapped in a forest fire in Tamil Nadu’s Kurankani Hills in Theni district on Sunday afternoon. The students were said to be on a trekking expedition.
The district administration of the Theni area sought help from the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who immediately asked the Indian Air Force (IAF) at Sulur in Coimbatore to pick into action and safely evacuate all the students.
Sitharaman said that the IAF has been pressed into action, also adding that the Southern Command is in touch with the Collector of Theni for more assistance with the rescue operations. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, K Palaniswami, had requested the defence minister for help in the rescue operations.
She also added that almost 10-15 students had been rescued and that they are on their way down from the hill.
Just now I have spoken to District Collector. He communicated that 10-15 students have been rescued. They are coming down from the hill. Operation continues.: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's tweet on forest-fire in Tamil Nadu (file pic) pic.twitter.com/4ZlpOOFALe— ANI (@ANI) March 11, 2018
Sitharaman also tweeted the status of the rescue operation from time to time. 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. Every effort will be taken to recover the students. 10-15 students are descending to the base of the mountain. The IAF helicopter will provide you with the help of the respective service providers and the local authorities. Sulurillary helicopters near Coimbatore have been sent."
The Conservator of forests of Madurai circle RK Jegania said that students from a college in Tamil Nadu were caught in a forest fire at around 4 pm. One of the students had called her father, who, in turn, alerted the forest department officials.
He said, “They had not obtained permission for trekking. We have dispatched 40 of our personnel for rescue operation.”
Theni district collector Pallavi Baldev ruled out any casualties saying, “Once the students are safely brought down, further details will be known.”