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At least 20 people rescued, IAF choppers pressed into service

11 March 2018

Ten to 15 out of several students trapped in a forest fire in Tamil Nadu's Theni have been rescued, Defence Minister Nirmalal Sitharaman said.

Following this development, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has requested the Union Defense Ministry to help rescue the stranded students. "The rescue and search operation is still underway", she said, adding that Indian Air Force helicopter had to return to the Sullur Air Base in Coimbatore due to low light.

In another tweet around 7 pm, Sitharaman said she spoke to the Theni District Collector who informed her that 10-15 students were making their way to the foothills.

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Around 20 students belonging to the group of 40 trekkers are said to be trapped inside the forest.

Alleging that miscreants were behind the fire at Kurangani, Mr. Palaniswami said forest department will strengthen security in forest areas after a review.

Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam is rushing to the spot to take stock of the situation. Instructed @IAF_MCC to help in rescue and evacuation. In a tweet, she also said that the Southern Command was in touch with the Theni Collector.

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Sitharaman remained in touch with the District Collector and directed the Indian Airforce to co-ordinate in the rescue operations.

A senior police officer has told NDTV, that 27 students from Chennai had gone for trekking but "they did not take permission from police or the forest department".

The students, who are from Erode and Coimbatore, were trekking in the Kurangani Hills when they got caught in the fire.

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District Superintendent of Police V Baskaran and revenue and forest officials were also overseeing the operations.

At least 20 people rescued, IAF choppers pressed into service