Death toll from Great Smoky Mountains Wildfire rises to seven
Published: 2016-12-01 16:42:50.0 BdST Updated: 2016-12-01 16:42:50.0 BdST
The death toll from wildfires blazing in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee rose to seven on Wednesday even as drenching rains helped firefighters suppress flames that have left whole neighbourhoods in ruins.
The tally of documented property losses from the fires also climbed to more than 700 structures damaged or destroyed throughout Sevier County, including at least 300 in the resort town of Gatlinburg.
On Tuesday, authorities reported about 150 structures damaged or destroyed by fire.
Aerial news footage broadcast on local television showed the burned-out, smoking ruins of dozens of homes surrounded by blackened trees in several neighbourhoods.
In one piece of good news, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters told a late afternoon news conference on Wednesday that three people who were trapped by the fire were safely rescued, treated at a local hospital and released.
He gave no details about the circumstances of their rescue.
But three more bodies were recovered earlier in the day, bringing the number of confirmed fatalities from the disaster to seven, but none of the victims had been positively identified, he said.
As many as 45 fire-related injuries were reported by the Tennessee Department of Health.
Mandatory evacuation orders remained in effect for some 14,000 people in and around Gatlinburg, along with a dusk-to-dawn curfew for the city, known as the "gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains."
But nearly all of the estimated 500 people forced from their homes in the nearby town of Pigeon Forge were allowed to return, according to fire department spokeswoman Trish McGee. Pigeon Forge is home to country music star Dolly Parton's theme park, Dollywood, which suspended operations through Wednesday.
A wildfire burns on a hillside after a mandatory evacuation was ordered in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in a picture released Nov 30, 2016. Reuters
The so-called Chimney Top fire, the principal blaze menacing the area, exploded in the national park on Monday evening as wind gusts reached nearly 145 km per hour, spreading the flames through drought-parched trees and brush into surrounding homes and businesses.
TV news footage showed numerous homes going up in flames, silhouetted against an ominous orange sky.
By Wednesday afternoon, the fire zone had scorched an estimated 15,700 acres, but firefighters made considerable progress in containing the blaze, helped by steady showers that drenched the area Tuesday night into Wednesday.
"We're thankful to the big guy up above for that rain, that's for sure," Waters said.
Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said many of his crews were busy on Wednesday helping clear downed power lines, mudslides and other debris from roadways to allow search teams and recovery crews into more remote areas of the fire zone.
President Barack Obama spoke on Wednesday with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to express condolences for lives lost and his sympathies for those displaced and injured, and to offer any support needed, according to the White House.
Any unauthorised use or reproduction of bdnews24.com content for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited and constitutes copyright infringement liable to legal action.
- Nasrul Hamid says Al Gore’s Davos remarks on Rampal based on internet info
- World temperatures hit new high in 2016 for third year in a row
- Climate change influencing migration flows in Bangladesh: IOM
- Ocean current sends out chilling warning for northern Europe
- World heat shatters records in 2016 in new sign of global warming
- China to pay $360 billion for renewable fuel by 2020
- Paris warming limit will increase fish catches
- Top China coal province vows 20 percent cut in pollution by 2020 – Xinhua
- Arctic heatwave could break records this Christmas
- Residents in China's north complain as smog alert enters fifth day
- Bangladesh cricketer Arafat Sunny arrested in ICT case filed by woman
- Cricketer Arafat Sunny remanded in ICT case filed by woman
- Bangladesh probing Bengali army officers' crime links in Pakistan war
- UAE officials raid shops, slap fines for sending money to Bangladesh bypassing laws
- White House accuses media of playing down inauguration crowds
- Bangladesh closing down school that dubbed pro-Pakistan Monem Khan 'martyr'
- Two Indian soldiers killed in Assam
- Bangladesh home minister's son demands hanging of 'atheist' on Facebook
- Awami League leader Suranjit's former aide found guilty of corruption
- Trump fans shocked by foreign-made 'Make America Great Again' caps