Thiruvananthapuram: As the death toll in the forest fire on Kurangani Hills in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district rose on Monday, neighbouring Kerala imposed a temporary ban on trekking in the state’s forest regions and placed restrictions on tourist entry to these areas.
Trekkers in groups from Chennai, Erode and Tirupur were trapped on a hillock near Bodinayakanur in Theni on Sunday afternoon, following a raging forest fire.
The state has already banned entry to some of its wildlife sanctuaries and ecotourism zones, including the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, as a precautionary step against forest fires in the summer.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, expressing grief over the incident, said the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority had issued a temporary ban on trekking in forest regions.
The forest department has also been directed to enhance its preparedness to meet possibilities of forest fires, Vijayan said.
Reports said organisers of the trekking expedition did not have permission from the Tamil Nadu Forest Department officials.
Kerala’s department of tourism has also issued a directive to regulate tourists’ entry to the state’s forest regions.
“Tour operators and package providers have been issued notices regarding the same. This order came right after the state’s chief secretary issued a trekking curb in the state’s forest reserves,” an official statement said here on Monday.
The Chief Minister had on Sunday directed the district collector and police chief of Idukki, bordering Theni, to assist in the rescue and rehabilitation operations initiated by the Tamil Nadu government.
Kerala Police and fire and rescue services personnel and officials of the forest and revenue departments have been engaged in the rescue operations since Sunday.