Various political parties, including opposition DMK, today expressed concern over the death of nine persons, part of a trekking expedition, in a forest fire in Tamil Nadu and called for steps to streamline the activity.
Stalin, also the leader of the opposition in the state Assembly, said he was "shocked and anguished" over the loss of lives and expressed his sympathies with the families of the victims.
"Such fires are often happening in the Kurangani forest. If the district administration and forest department had ensured adequate guidance and arrangements for those who had gone on the trekking expedition, the loss of lives could have been certainly avoided," he said in a statement.
In future, officials should ensure that adequate steps are in place for the safety of the trekkers, he added.
AIADMK leader and RK Nagar MLA Dhinakaran also condoled the death of the victims.
In a series of tweets, he blamed the forest department's 'laxity' for 'not preventing the victims from undertaking the trekking expedition as the reason for the tragedy.
The fires were raging for the past 15 days, but the forest department had also not issued any alerts, he alleged.
"The forest department not issuing alerts and not preventing them (trekkers) from undertaking the expedition is the reason for the loss of lives," he said.
In future, relevant rules and regulations regarding trekking should be duly followed, he said.
CPI state unit secretary R Mutharasan demanded a probe into the matter. He expressed sympathies with the families of the victims.
He called for streamlining of trekking and increased monitoring in the area.
A 36-member team -- 24 people from Chennai and 12 from Tiruppur and Erode districts -- on a trekking expedition reached the Kurangani hills on March 10.
The team included 25 women and three children.