Chennai: The death toll in the forest fire in Theni district climbed to 11 with one more trekker succumbing to burns on Tuesday. Of 17 trekkers undergoing treatment at various hospitals, eight continue to be critical and are on ventilator support.
According to health department sources, these eight survivors continue to be in ICU and are being attended to by doctors and plastic surgeons. Health secretary J. Radhakrishnan, who is camping at Madurai, said around 15 injured individuals are admitted at the Government hospital in Theni, including four patients who suffered more than 90 per cent burns, while another eight have suffered more than 50 percent burns. Three of them have incurred less than 40 per cent burns and are being monitored round the clock.
The multi-disciplinary team of doctors are not only providing treatment for burns, but they are also looking to prevent infections due to burns. Private health care providers, who specialise in treatment of burns, have also joined the team of government doctors and plastic surgeons, the health secretary told DC.
On Sunday night, the police arrested Ranjith (30), who was the tour guide for trekkers from Erode. Another guide, Rajesh, who was coordinating with trekkers from Chennai, has also been detained. “We have launched a manhunt for missing Peter Van Geit, the Belgian who founded the Chennai Trekking Club. A few villagers of Kurangani settlement and staff associated with a local tea estate are also under the scanner, police said.
Earlier in the day, top forest officials inspected the Karangani range where the tragedy struck and placed forester Jaisingh on suspension. According to forest department sources the forester as charged for not patrolling the area coming under his jurisdiction and queries were also raised against local rangers and guards and further investigations are on. “The focus would now be on preventing the fire outbreak in to other areas and a circular was issued to foresters asking them to tighten the movement of public into reserve forests”, forest department sources said.