Kamal Haasan expresses grief for Theni forest fire victims

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The city-based group believed to have arranged the ill-fated trekking expedition to Kurangani Hills where 11 members were killed in a forest fire, today claimed the team had received an "entry pass" to proceed with their mission. Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that from Monday early dawn the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters put out the blaze in a limited area to enable rescue and airlift operations. From the injured, 10 have sustained minor injuries and 8 have serious injuries. The fire has now been doused.

The team included 25 women and three children, according to Theni District Collector Mariam Pallavi Baldev. He said the forest fire was reported in the Kurangani Hills for the past 15 days but the Forest Department had not issued any prior warning notice.

"Special medical teams have been sent to Bodinayyakanur hospital", Health Minister C Vijayabhaskar wrote on his official Twitter page.

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After conquering the peak, the trekkers started their downward journey to the plain and stopped for the lunch on Sunday afternoon at 1 pm when they were caught unaware by a raging fire from the downhill.

Sources said a couple of officials deputed to make enquiries at the group's office at Palavakkam found it closed.

In his condolence message, he said "my Heart is filled with grief at the untimely end that has befallen 10 members of a trekking group in the Kurankani hills of Theni district".

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Besides Theni, there were forest fires also in Ramakkalmedu and Pookkulam Mala sharing their borders with Kerala. "Without permission, they embarked on a trekking expedition. It will definitely take time", she said when asked about the time-frame for rescuing all.

He said that the forest department had been alerted about the fire in the morning through a system operated by the Forest Survey of India, Dehradun. "Nobody has stopped them so far", he said.

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