Chennai, Mar 12: 26-year-old Vijayalakshmi was among the group of trekkers which was caught in a massive forest fire in Theni district of Tamil Nadu. She ran for her life and to escape the intense smoke, flames, and heat. However, saving her life was not the only motive of Vijayalakshmi. She showed the presence of mind and played a key role in bringing help for others stranded in the massive fire.

Vijayalakshmi acted swiftly and informed local people about the fire and her stranded trek mates. A total of 27 trekkers were rescued from the fire in picturesque Theni district. Had she not acted swiftly and informed the people about the fire incident, none of them would have survived. The trekking group of eight men, 25 women and three children had camped at a place up in the hills on Saturday night.

“We were on our way back to Kurangani hills via Kodaikanal- Kolukkumalai. We were about 8 km away from the hills when we first noticed the fire,” Vijayalakshmi was quoted as saying. “We panicked and ran like hell in different directions screaming. Some of the team members got trapped inside the forest. The guide who accompanied us split away. We tried to call foresters and police but could not reach them due to network issues. It took some time to get through to them. I walked around eight kilometres to come out of the forest. I’m thankful to local people who rushed me to the hospital,” she added.

Vijaylakshmi, who suffered only minor injuries, was admitted to the Government Taluk Hospital, Bodinayakanur. She was shifted to the guest house adjacent to the Theni district Collectorate late on Sunday. Earlier, in a tweet, Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan expressed grief and shock at the loss of life of those who were caught up in the blaze. According to a Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services official, the operation was expected to be over by Monday afternoon.

Nine trekkers have died in a forest fire on the Kurangani Hills in Tamil Nadu, the District Collector said on Monday. A rescue operation with the help of the Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters has been underway since Sunday.