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.
- Trump to sign order sweeping away Obama-era climate policies
- Thousands take shelter as Cyclone Debbie lashes Australian coastal resorts
- Trump greenlights Keystone XL pipeline, but obstacles loom
- Trump to roll back use of climate change in policy reviews: source
- In race to curb climate change, cities outpace governments
- EPA chief unconvinced on CO2 link to global warming
- France bans plastic cups, plates and cutlery
- Warmest ever February day recorded in Toronto since 1938
- South Asian nations vow to meet challenges of climate change
- Climate change sceptic Pruitt to take charge of EPA
- Security forces raiding two militant hideouts in Moulvibazar
- Former Indian army veterans all praise for Bangladesh para-commandos
- Security forces launch operation on terror den in Moulvibazar
- Bombs turned Atia Mahal into a death trap, says army after Operation Twilight
- Section 144 clamped around two suspected Moulvibazar militant hideouts
- Police move to raid 'militant hideout' in Comilla
- SWAT team heading for Moulvibazar terror dens, army if needed, says home minister
- Police inspector in Bogra found hanging at home
- Pakistan not sending team to IPU Assembly in Bangladesh
- No cause for satisfaction over 'successes in a few anti-terror raids', says BNP chief Khaleda