THENI: In what was a fun trip that went completely wrong, at least five of 36 students who went trekking in the Bodi forest area in this district died after they were caught in a huge forest fire on Sunday. Twenty-seven others were rescued, five of them with severe burn injuries, at the time of going to Press.
One of the injured was Anu Vidya (27), from Chennai. She sustained 50% burn injuries and was admitted to the Bodi Government Hospital from where she was later taken to the Theni Medical Hospital.
The flames that licked the forest were so intense that they went up to 10 ft over a long stretch, hampering access and rescue operations. Heavy winds contributed to their rapid spread, leaving the students scared and running in different directions.
As they cried out for help, people working in the estate they had camped at came to their aid. Later the fire and rescue services personnel, forest and police officials joined the rescue effort.
In all, there were two teams of trekkers - 12 from Tirupur, Erode and Coimbatore and 24 from Chennai.
The Chennai team included three children. Trekkers from Chennai got themselves enrolled with the Chennai Trekking Club, which had conceived the plan as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations.
forest fire in Tamil Nadu's Theni
Sources said both groups reached Korangani on Friday and entered the forest on Saturday. They put up tents outside an estate in Kozhugumalai and camped there.
While beginning their return on Sunday afternoon, the students are said to have noticed smoke at a distance. A student whose mobile phone managed to catch the tower signal informed her parents about the fire. They, in turn, alerted police and forest officials in Theni.
But the fire advanced faster than anticipated. Prabhu, a resident of Erode, who is undergoing treatment at the PHC said, “When we were returning on Sunday, we noticed the forest fire afar. Within a few seconds, it came near us due to the heavy wind. All trekkers ran helter-skelter. It was our guide who brought us down safely.”
Four from Tirupur — Sajana (11), Mega (8), Bavana (15) and Rajasekar — sustained injuries and are undergoing treatment at the primary health centre at Korangani.
Choppers, commandos deployed
As many as 21 rescue teams have been deployed for rescue ops. Four helicopters will be deployed from Monday morning. 20 commandos will join in
Scary day in the forest
36 students in two groups reach Bodi for forest trekking on Friday. They had two different organisers
The first group comprised 12. They were from Tirupur, Erode and Coimbatore.
24 were from Chennai, included three children, in the second group.
They stayed overnight on Saturday at in Kozhugumalai and started their return on Sunday when they noticed the forest fire at a distance.
Soon it came very close and the scared students ran helter-skelter.