Trekking 'temporarily' banned in Karnataka forests

Official sources said the search operations were concluded as all the trekkers were accounted for.

Baldev said 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. Citing the hard terrain as a major hindrance in conducting operations seamlessly, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, "We are also bringing in an ALH, which is a light helicopter so that the manoeuvrability will be better because this cliff is nearly a vertical hillock, which goes up very sharply and there is not much not of a level ground where they can land".

In future, officials should ensure that adequate steps are in place for the safety of the trekkers, he added.

He called for streamlining of trekking and increased monitoring in the area. "Though we can't confirm the total death toll, one dead body has been brought from the hills and there are other dead bodies as per the rescue team", said health minister C. Vijayabaskar.

PMK leader Ramadoss wondered if all the rules were duly followed by the authorities concerned and the company that arranged for the trekking expedition. The department noted that several forest areas in the state are prone to forest fires and multiple fires have already been reported in several areas including Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru already this year.

There are many local residents and religious leaders who are also seeking permission to enter the forests to perform rituals. Regular trekkers say teams often go into these areas without knowing that there will be wild life movement by paying a small fee as entry at forest check posts.

A statement from the club to this effect virtually challenged the Tamil Nadu governments contention that the trekkers had not obtained the required permission.

Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister, Thiru O. Panneerselvam, visited the site, Monday, tweeting images of officials inspecting the smoldering hills in the aftermath of the blaze.

The CTC blamed the local farmers for the fire.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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