CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu government today named a senior IAS official to inquire into circumstances leading to deaths of 11 persons in a forest fire at Kurangani hills,which has now been completely doused due to unexpected heavy rains.
Principal Secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management, Atulya Misra has been named as the Enquiry Officer.
The Terms of Reference for him include circumstances leading to the incident, a review of procedure in the Forest Department for regulation and permission for trekking in reserved forest areas.
The inquiry officer will also go into "role and lapses, if any," on the part of trekking organisers and forest officials.
Meanwhile a report from Theni said heavy rains had completely doused the fire after efforts to contain its spread using water dumped by helicopters had come to nought.
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.
"The circumstances leading to this incident of forest fire, as well as trekking without proper permission from Forest Department in forest fire prone area needs to be enquired in detail," the G.O said.
Such an enquriy was to enable the government take further action in the matter, it said, adding it had hence decided to appoint Misra as enquiry officer.
Twenty four persons from Chennai and 12 from Tirupur and Erode districts had separately embarked on trekking expeditions to Kurangani hills on March 10 in Theni district.
The teams included 25 women and three children, who later met atop the hills.
On 11 March, while returning to plains, a wild fire engulfed the hills, killing 11 of them.
Over a dozen persons, including three children, who sustained burns,were rescued by personnel of multiple agencies like commandos, police, fire and rescue and forest personnel.
Four IAF helicopters were used for the rescue operations. After the mishap, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said a probe would be held into the incident and said the trekkers had not taken permission to climb up the hills.
He announced a solatium of four lakh each to the families of the victims, Rs one lakh to those seriously injured and 50,000 to those with minor injuries.