A group of 36 students had been on the ill-fated trekking expedition on Kurangani hills in Bodi, out of which ten succumbed to the massive fire. 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.
A total of 29 people were rescued, but at least nine among them suffered serious burn injuries and the death toll could rise, Baldev added. "On Saturday morning, when the group started to trek, there was no sign of fire in the entire forest range, and by evening, the team reached the Kolukkumalai tea estate at the top of the hill and camped there", it said.
"We were not informed about the forest fire".
Rescue efforts began Sunday, aided by the Indian Air Force and the National Disaster Management, with two helicopters helping to evacuate those stranded.
D Prabhu, the Erode-based organiser for the trekking, filed the affidavit after the Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Miniter O Panneerselvam told reporters that the trekkers did not have any permission from the forest department.
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As summer months are the peak tourist season, the Department offices across Karnataka are flooded with applications from wildlife enthusiasts seeking permission for trekking.
"So far, 27 people have been rescued and operations are in full swing to rescue two others". The fatalities include 4 women, 4 men and a child and took place due to burn injuries. They were supposed to return on Sunday.
Madurai District Collector Veeraraghava Rao said medical teams comprising plastic surgeons have been deployed to provide treatment at the Madurai Government Rajaji Hospital.
"Forest officials could be at fault".
"In the forest department, we start working on fire control from March", Ali, who is also the honorary warden of the Nilgiris reserve forest, said. "It will definitely take time", she said when asked about the time-frame for rescuing all.