When the hills fall silent

Prelims level : Disaster Management Mains level : GS – III
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  • A year ago, Kurangani, a village in the district of Theni, was teeming with people from cities like Chennai and Bengaluru, seeking adventure. They would scale the Othamaram, Kolukkumalai and Top Station with the help of locals, to camp and trek on weekends.
  • The treks, largely unauthorised, created a small, yet thriving local economy by providing livelihood and supplementary income to many families in Kurangani and nearby hamlets. That is history now. Life for villagers changed after March 11, 2018, when 23 people were killed in a forest fire. After the fire, everything abruptly ended.
  • The 23 victims were from two groups of trekkers, of which only one had engaged a local guide. While some escaped, 17 women and six men, who were descending from Othamaram, got caught in the blaze.

  • Nine were charred to death on the spot and others battled for their lives at burns units of various hospitals. Eventually, they too succumbed.
  • Locals, who played a key role in rescuing the injured, say that the sight and smell of the tragedy remain etched in their memory. While the incident left families of the deceased traumatised, the villagers say they are staring at a different, desolate reality.
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