During the ongoing operations, the IAF has pressed four helicopters and 16 elite Garud commandoes to search and rescue the remaining trekkers trapped in the Kurangani forest as the fire rages on. Of the total rescued, 17 people sustained burn injuries and were admitted to the burn wards in Government Hospitals at Madurai and Theni districts, where the condition of some of them was stated to be very critical. A few casualties were suspected but could not be confirmed at the time of filing this report. An Advance Light Helicopter was also inducted into the operation early this morning, Sitharaman said.
The three other deceased from Erode included a recently married couple Vivek and Vijaya and a the third person now identified as Tamilselvi.
A fire service official from Theni told IANS that ambulances and fire tenders have been sent to the spot.
The group reportedly did not take permission from the police or the forest department for trekking.
State health minister C. Vijayabaskar tweeted that 15 of the hikers had been rescued and were being treated at a government hospital.
"Strict instructions have been issued to the ground staff not to trek in areas which are prone to forest fire".
"Just now I have spoken to District Collector".
Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters brought the remains of eight of the killed from the hills.
"They camped in an estate and were returning when the fire broke out in the forest". Instructed @IAF_MCC to help in rescue and evacuation. A tourist operator based in the Theni said that some of the trekking groups would take trekkers on their own after visiting the forest once or twice with the local guides. One of the hospitalised women succumbed to injuries on Monday evening while seven others battling for the lives in the hospital after suffering burn injuries ranging from 50 to 90 per cent.
Besides Theni, there were forest fires also in Ramakkalmedu and Pookkulam Mala sharing their borders with Kerala.
Mr Palanisami has said rescue operations are underway on a war footing and his deputy O Panneerselvem, Forest Minister Dindigul C Srinivasan and top officials are overseeing the operations.
It is dark, it is a hilly place and it is not a motorable road. After a particular distance, we have to walk and there's a situation where we need to lift and carry the injured physically.