Forest department not prepared to handle Kurangani fire

Forest department not prepared to handle Kurangani fire

Report on Kurangani hills tragedy reveals loopholes and lapses in forest department

The ill-preparedness of the Forest Department to tackle the fire in Kurangani hills in Theni district was one of the reasons which led to the death of 22 trekkers on March 11, a report submitted to the chief minister said.

Loopholes in surveillance by officials concerned and absence of a standard procedure to handle such incidents were other reasons, it said.

Moreover, there was no proper mechanism to monitor the organisations which claim experience in taking people for trekking in forest areas, the report added.

The Tamil Nadu government had appointed Principal Secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management, Atulya Misra as the inquiry officer to probe the wildfire, asking him to look into the circumstances leading to the incident, review the procedure in the Forest Department for regulation and permission for trekking in reserved forest areas.

Misra had submitted the report to Chief Minister K Palaniswami yesterday.

The tragedy occurred on March 11 when two groups of people -- 24 from Chennai and 12 from Tirupur and Erode districts -- were returning after trekking expeditions to the Kurangani Hills in the Western ghats falling under Theni district, over 540 km from here.

A wild forest fire engulfed the hills, killing 11 of the trekkers while as many succumbed to injuries at various hospitals in subsequent days.

The trekkers included 25 women and three children.

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