Trekking banned in Kerala forest regions after Theni wildfire

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A "volunteer" organisation that is believed to have arranged the ill-fated trekking expedition of a 36-member group in Theni district in which nine people were killed has been found closed here, police said on Monday.

"Six deceased belonged to Chennai, while three to Erode", the DC said. In a bid to escape, they ran helter-skelter due to which at least a dozen of them fell into a deep gorge and were charred, rescuers said. Eight trekkers were sent to the circuit house.

Indian Air Force has sent two helicopters on the directives of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman after she was approached for help by Chief Minister K Palanisami.

The injured have been admitted in a separate ward.

Mr Palanisami has said rescue operations are underway on a war footing and his deputy O Panneerselvem, Forest Minister Dindigul C Srinivasan and top officials are overseeing the operations.

The ban by Kerala and Karnataka comes a day after the forest fire at Kurangini hills on Sunday trapped 39 persons - mostly women - who had gone on a trek. When trained forest personnel find it hard to handle such extreme conditions how could trekkers manage it, he said adding all these factors were taken into consideration by the department before withdrawing permission for trekking.

The CTC website does not have any name or number of the persons who are in-charge of the trekking expeditions.

O Panneerselvam at the Theni govt hospital to meet those injured in the fire.

Theni district, where the deaths took place, has witnessed persistent deficits in winter rainfall over the past few years. Three of them had returned to the plains without going ahead further.

The prime minister also expressed anguish over loss of lives in Kathmandu plane crash. I wish them all the best for recovery and rehabilitation.

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