Chennai: Though the actual rescue operation commenced at the crack of dawn on Monday, atleast in terms of the number of those rescued at the Kurangani forest in Theni, the nine bodies recovered by the Garud commandos of the IAF were found lying in crevices on steep rocky slopes. According to IAF, 27 of 36 stranded trekkers were rescued and brought to the plains with the help of winch.
The sudden inferno and the topography had posed a tough challenge to the State and Central forces involved in the rescue operations. The cliff is almost vertical and did not offer much of a level ground for the helicopters to land. “The hill slope was so acute that it made the landing of helicopters difficult and as a result the stranded members had to be rescued only by winching,” an official said. Notwithstanding the difficult terrain which was a major hindrance in conducting operations seamlessly, the joint efforts helped to rescue the victims.
According to the IAF, its helicopters shifted the injured to the district government hospital without delay. “The commandos were equipped with GPS & satellite phones to navigate and keet in touch with the Air Base and local authorities. Upon reaching, the commandos assisted in giving first aid and safely evacuated the students. As a result of efforts, 27 of 36 stranded due to Theni forest fire were rescued,” the official Twitter handle of the office of the Defence Minister tweeted.
The16 Garud commandos dispatched by the Southern Air Command (SAC) of the Indian Air Force in three choppers to Kurangani to rescue the trekkers stranded in the midst of a forest fire that struck on Sunday, reached the fire zone in the hills and started dousing the fire. One of the helicopters completed the first round of action and is continuing the rescue operation, it was said.
IAF’s Garud commando force is a special force unit which derives its name from Garuda, a divine bird of the Hindu mythology. The Garud is tasked to protect critical Air Force bases and installations, search and rescue during peace and hostilities and disaster relief during calamities. They are also deployed as part of the UN peace keeping operations.