Theni forest fire toll reaches 12; case lodged against trekking club owner
The forest department has suspended forest officer Jaisingh in connection with the incident.india Updated: Mar 15, 2018 19:42 IST
The death toll in the Kurangani forest fire in Theni district rose to 12 with one more woman succumbing to her burns at a private hospital in Madurai on Thursday, the police said.
The victim was identified as Divya Viswanathan of Coimbatore district, they added.
All the victims belonged to a 36-member trekking team that was caught in the fire in the Kurangani Kozhukumalai hill ranges, near Theni, some 500 km from Chennai. The team comprised 24 people from Chennai and 12 from Tiruppur and Erode districts.
The trekkers, including 25 women and three children, had reached the Kurangani hills on March 10. Three of the team members had opted out of the trek.
After staying at an estate in Kozhukumalai overnight, the trekkers had started their return journey on March 11 (Sunday), when they heard of the forest fire and got separated from each other while trying to find a way out of the forest.
The hills are in the Western Ghats near Bodinayakanur, about 40 km from Theni.
The forest department has suspended Forest Officer Jaisingh in connection with the incident.
Meanwhile, the police on Thursday lodged a case against Peter Van Geit, the owner of the Chennai-based trekking club that had organised the trek.
He was charged under section 304 of the IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), the police said.
Two people, including an agent of the club at Erode, have been arrested in connection with the incident.
Officials on Wednesday said the search operations were called off as all the trekkers were accounted for.
Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami has announced a solatium of Rs 4 lakh each to the kin of the deceased, Rs 1 lakh each to those seriously injured and Rs 50,000 each to those with simple injuries.