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Last Updated Tuesday April 23 2019 03:00 PM IST

One more dies, Theni forest fire toll rises to 16 | Video

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Theni forest fire: death toll rises to 16 The government has already suspended Theni range officer Jaisingh for allowing the 39-member trekking team to enter the forest without requisite permission.

Theni, Tamil Nadu: The toll in the devastating fire at Kurangani forests in the district rose to 16 with the death of two more women in private hospitals Friday, police said.

The deceased have been identified as Sakthikala and Devi, police said.

Of the 16 killed in the fire, 12 were women and one was a child.

A 36-member team - 24 people from Chennai and 12 from Tiruppur and Erode districts - had embarked on the trekking expedition and reached Kurangani hills on March 10.

The trekkers, after staying at an estate in Kozhukumalai overnight, started their return journey to the plains Sunday morning when they heard of the sudden forest fire and got separated while attempting to find a safe way.

The trekkers were caught in the forest fire in Kurangani Kozhukumalai hill ranges near Theni, some 500 km away from Chennai.

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.

Following the incident, Tamil Nadu has banned trekking in forests till May and neighbouring Kerala till further notice.

The trekkers undergoing treatment have given a statement to the police that they had entered the forest after being issued passes by officials of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department on payment of Rs 200.

Theni district police chief V Bhaskaran said that Chennai Trekking Club (CTC), which organised the trekking programme, was functioning illegally.

A case was also registered against Peter Van Geit, a Belgian national, the owner of the Chennai based Trekking club believed to have arranged the trekking expedition to Kurangani Hills.

He has been charged under IPC 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), police said.

Two Erode natives Prabhu and Rajesh have been arrested. The police also raided the office of Tour de India, owned by Prabhu.

Read: Latest National News | Opposition gangs up as TDP pushes for no-confidence motion

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