Couple’s Weekend Trek Ends In Tragedy, Blamegame Over Tamil Nadu Forest Fire

Tamil Nadu government blames organisers who say they had permission from forest department

Tamil Nadu:  A weekend trek to the Kurangani hills in Theni, to get a taste of adventure was all they wanted. Divya and Vivek, who got married only four months ago, were on that fateful trekking trip, when the group of 36 were trapped in raging forest fires, that killed ten. 27-year-old Vivek has died while Divya, 29, is battling for her life, with 70 per cent burns at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai.

The couple was planning to move to Dubai where Vivek works say their friends.

Vivek and Divya had reportedly married against the wishes of their families who were not in touch after they came to live in Erode. Divya’s family has now come to see her in the hospital.

It’s a heart wrenching scene outside the Government Medical College Hospital in Theni, where families have come to identify the charred bodies of their relatives.

The state government has blamed Chennai Trekking Club, the organisers, for not taking permission from the forest department, before taking the group on the trip. Sources say state government officials are investigating into other camps organised by the Chennai Trekking Club, which was started by a Belgian national, in 1989.

Trekking has temporarily been banned in the particular stretch in Kurangani hills. “The Chief Secretary and Chairman of State Disaster Management authority issued directions on Monday that trekking to the hills should be stopped until all fire lines are cleared,” said Kerala’s Chief Conservator of Forest PK Kesavan.

Raj Jacob of the Chennai Trekking Club told NDTV that everyone had permission and Rs 200 was paid at the forest entry point. Mr Jacob also said, it is a popular trekking route for many years.

Adventure lovers who have gone on trips organised by the club say the club has always taken great care. Many of them tweeted about their earlier experiences.

All of the 10 trekkers who died in the forest fire are between 26 and 30. The trekkers were trapped in forest fires, on a hillock in Kurangini, on their way back on Sunday.

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