Four months after cyclone Ockhi lashed the State, the Indian Air Force has played another pivotal role in the rescue operations in Tamil Nadu by aiding stranded trekkers near here.The IAF launched an operation to rescue the stranded trekkers in Kurangani forests soon after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman promised humanitarian assistance to the State.

By 8.30 pm on Sunday, IAF’s Mil Mi-8 choppers were pressed into action and they carried out an ariel survey of the region where the trekkers had been stranded. Two choppers were also deployed to control the fire.

Further, a team of 35 IAF personnel including a medical team rushed to Bodi in three IAF choppers from Sulur Air Base and a unit of IAF went on the terrains through ground at 5 am on Monday.  The team started its search mission at 5.17 am on Monday morning using the GPS location obtained through an ariel survey, which was conducted by an IAF chopper on Sunday night. Sources said, the stranded trekkers had signalled the IAF choppers using their torch and mobile phone lights.

During the rescue mission, 10 trekkers with grievous injuries were brought down from the hill and were taken to hospitals in Bodi, Theni and Madurai.Also, nine bodies were found in different locations and officials in the chopper passed on information to the teams on ground. The bodies were collected and identified by a team headed by Theni SP. The corpses were then packed and airlifted in the choppers and taken to a temporary helipad erected in the playground of a private college. Later, the bodies were taken to Theni Medical College Hospital for postmortem. After the identification process got over, the bodies were handed over to the the relatives of the deceased.

After continuing the search for debris and missing persons till 11 am, the IAF declared that the six hour-long search mission on Monday had been concluded.One of the IAF cadre who was involved in the rescue operation said that the mission was challenging as the chopper had no place to land on the hilly terrain and flying low over such a terrain was risky.

Forest officials detain guide

Theni: Following the fire accident, the officials of forest department have detained one Rajesh of Surya Nalli village near Bodi Mettu on Monday. Sources said, Rajesh was an unauthorised guide, and he played an important role in arranging accommodation for the 27 persons sent by the Chennai-based trekking club to Kolukkumalai, during the night hours. He led them to Kurangani forests in the afternoon on Sunday and the wild fire, which claimed the lives of nine, broke out mid way to Kurangani.