Forest fire in south India kills 9 hikers at tourist spot

Nine people were killed in a forest fire in southern India after becoming trapped while hiking, police said Monday.

The fire began Sunday afternoon in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, sweeping quickly through the Kurangani hills area, a popular destination for tourists.

Around 39 people, the majority of whom were local families, were left trapped as a result of the fire, V. Baskaran, a senior police official said.

“Four men, four women and a girl child died in the fire. The rest are safe,” added Baskaran.

Rescue efforts began Sunday, aided by the Indian Air Force and the National Disaster Management, with two helicopters helping to evacuate those stranded.

Officials confirmed a total of 27 people are currently receiving treatment at nearby hospitals for burn injuries. Two people, who are in critical condition, have been transferred to a specialist hospital in the nearby city of Madurai, said R. Sedhu, a district police official.

The Kurangani hills in Theni district, which border a forest reserve and a national park, are a popular destination for hikers and international adventure tourists. Multiple hiking groups were in the region at the time of the fire.

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.

Hiking groups have been told to keep a safe distance from the area as emergency workers continue to fully extinguish the fire and prevent its spread.