GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee mayor says that the death toll from wildfires earlier this week has increased to 10.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said Thursday afternoon that authorities had discovered three additional deaths. He did not release any details about the fatalities and said authorities are still working to positively identify the remains.
Hurricane-force winds fueled wildfires on Monday night, forcing more than 14,000 residents and tourists to evacuate the city of Gatlinburg.
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Tennessee officials say they are making significant progress searching for any survivors in homes and businesses that were scorched by wildfires earlier this week.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said Thursday that the death toll from the fires stands at seven. He says the number of injured has increased to about 75 people, including some who had to go to the hospital Wednesday. He did not release specifics about the injuries but did say that most of the people had been released from the hospital.
Authorities are following up on dozens of leads about missing people, but they do not know exactly how many people may be missing. Officials say most of the burned areas will have been searched by the end of Thursday.
More than 14,000 residents and tourists were forced to evacuated Monday night when high winds spread wildfires throughout the area near the Great Smoky Mountains.
Many people are still anxiously waiting to get back into Gatlinburg to see if their home has been damaged.
When authorities decide it’s safe for people to return to the fire-devastated city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Mark Howard knows what he’ll find: nothing.
The 57-year-old, privately employed handyman discovered that his house had been consumed by the wildfires raging through the Great Smoky Mountains while flat on his back with pneumonia in a hospital. He says he had no insurance.
Howard is one of thousands of people still waiting to be allowed back into Gatlinburg, a normally bustling tourist town on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that has been closed since Monday night. Authorities said they plan to announce details at an 11 a.m. news conference about when people can expect to be let in to check on their properties.
Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner has said officials are thinking about reopening the resort city as early as Friday. Werner lost the home he built himself along with all seven buildings of the condominium business he owned.
Howard was released from the hospital Wednesday night, and spent the night at a hotel in Pigeon Forge. He says he’ll move to a nearby hotel that is giving a discounted rate to fire victims. After that, he’ll have to start over from scratch.