As some families grieve over loss of Theni fire victims, others remain hopeful

"She saw us crying, and asked us why. She said we would see her at home,” said a victim's sister.
As some families grieve over loss of Theni fire victims, others remain hopeful
As some families grieve over loss of Theni fire victims, others remain hopeful

In a large room in the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai, despair hangs heavy in the air. Wailing and sobs can be heard all over the room, as families of the Theni fire victims wait for Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami to arrive.

The chairs in the room had been bunched into circles as at least 40 people, families, sat together, offering each other whatever little solace they could. In one corner, some mattresses were laid out for the families who had been waiting since last night to catch a wink.

But none of those present in the room ever imagined that the Kurangani trek could have been the last thing their loved ones did.

Newlyweds Vivek and Divya were among the 39 people who had gone on the trek from Chennai to Theni and back. While the burns from the forest fire have left Divya extremely critical, her husband died on the spot. His body was recovered in the wee hours of Monday.

TNM spoke to Vivek’s uncle, who could hardly speak between heaving sobs. “What can we do? He was supposed to go back to Dubai with his wife… Now everything is gone. Everyone in the house is shattered. Our child is lost,” he wailed.

Not far away from him sits another woman. She identifies herself as Sharmi, and had come to the hospital to see Nisha, the 30-year-old who was one of the people who organised the trek.

Nisha, a manager at LNT Valves in Chennai, was brought to the hospital with 100% burns on Sunday night. “When I spoke to Nisha’s sister, she was talking… She was cheerful even. Nisha told her sister that she was looking forward to seeing me,” Sharmi recounts.

Despite Nisha’s optimism, she breathed her last shortly after she said these words. According to Nisha’s sister, she stopped talking soon after, and had to be put on ventilator. By Monday evening, she was no more.

Amidst all the loss and sadness, many were desperately clinging onto hope 

Like many other families, 25-year-old Anu Vidhya’s too waited anxiously at the hospital. The 25-year-old was brought in with 80% burns around 8.30pm on Sunday.

“She had spoken to our mother at 2.30pm yesterday. She said they had stopped for a while and would resume the trek soon. Everything seemed normal,” her sister Madhupriya tells TNM.

The family got the news of the fire in the evening. Thankfully, Madhupriya was in Theni at the time, so she rushed to Bodhi hospital at 5.30pm. It was only three hours laterhowever that AnuVidhya was brought in.


That she has suffered 80% burns is grave, but what is keeping the family hopeful and motivated is Anu Vidhya herself.

Her family describes her as a “ball of energy”, a fitness buff, an athlete who frequented triathlons and treks. She is also a vegan, and loved animals.

“She saw us crying and asked us why. She said we would see her at home,” Madhupriya shares. “In fact it was she who told the ambulance personnel who were taking her to call our parents and tell them she was fine!”

Madhupriya adds that her sister is already thinking about her next workout and cannot wait to get back on her feet. “Because of her optimism, we are also hopeful. What has happened has happened. But sometimes even god can’t take away certain people,” Madhupriya says.

Edited by Geetika Mantri.

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