Dubai-based NRI, Wife Die in Forest Fire During Trekking Trip in Tamil Nadu

The couple was part of a 36-member trekking group that was caught in Kurangani forest fire in Tamil Nadu's Theni district.


A newly married Non-Resident Indian (NRI) man and his wife died in the Tamil Nadu forest fire that killed 11 people over the weekend. A group of trekkers was among those who died in the incident.

Vivek Natarajan and wife Divya died a day apart from each other due to burns after celebrating 100 days of their marriage.

Natarajan died on March 12 after suffering burns in the forest fire that started on March 10 in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district. The couple was part of the group of 36 trekkers who had gone mountain trekking in the Kurangani hills in Bodi foothills. This was his first visit home after the wedding in November last year.

Divya and another trekker died on March 14, raising the death toll to 11. The couple hailed from Erode district. They had gone on the trek with another friend, who also died in the fire, and two other groups. The tour was organized by the Chennai Trekking Club without permission from the Forest Department, the Hindu reported citing department sources. The tour leader of the group was arrested on March 12 while a forest department employee, posted at the Munthal section of the Bodi range, was suspended the next day by the forest department, the report added. The employee is said to have allowed the entry of the group into the unauthorized route without the knowledge of senior officials, the report said, adding that trekking is only permitted on the Kurangani-Top Station route, under the supervision of the Eco-tourism Management Committee, forest department and local residents.

Natarajan was an electronics engineer and was working in the Gulf Commercial Group, Dubai. Divya was as an assistant lecturer in India and the duo had to wait several years to get their parents’ approval for the marriage.

The couple made the plans to go for the trek even before reaching India, a colleague of Natarajan told Gulf News.

“He was very happy and excited about bringing his wife here. He had got his driving license and bought a car after marriage. He also arranged a flat in Al Ghusais before going home. They were supposed to come back on April 1 and begin a new life here,” one of his friends was quoted as saying.

In Tamil Nadu, at least 14 of the survivors were admitted to hospitals in Madurai and Erode after suffering serious burns. The defense ministry also jumped into action by deploying 16 commandos of the Garud Commando Force and four choppers from the Indian Air Force to hasten the rescue operation of those stuck in Kurangani forest fire.

Meanwhile, the Kerala government has banned trekking to the hills until all fire lines get cleared, Kerala principal chief conservator PK Kesavan said, according to the Business Standard.

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