Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said she has directed the Air Force to help rescue around 20 students who got trapped in a forest fire in Tamil Nadu while they were on a trek. The fire broke out near Kurangani, in Theni district, The Times of India reported on Sunday. The Air Force has a station at Sulur, in Coimbatore, the report said.

Fire tenders and local rescue personnel were deployed immediately, and reports said some of the students had already been rescued by about 8 pm.

Conservator of forests, Madurai circle, RK Jegania told the daily that the students had not asked for permission to trek in the area. They were trapped around 4 pm. The number of students trapped has not been confirmed though.

Chief Minister Palaniswami requested Sitharaman for help, The Hindu reported. His deputy O Panneerselvam is said to be heading to the location.