13 dead in Tennessee wildfires

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Devastated Gatlinburg residents have headed back to the wild-fire ravaged city to find out what remains of their homes and businesses, following blazes which have killed 13.

One person is understood to have died after suffering a heart attack while trying to escape the fires. The Sevier County Mayor, Larry Waters, says along with the heartbreaking deathtoll, the number of buildings which have been damaged now stands at some 1,000.

He said he could not put into words the feeling about the tragedy. Meanwhile, after mounting pressure from residents keen to see what they have left, property owners have been allowed into the majority of the city, although some sections remain out of bounds.

Checks

People have to go through an official checkpoint and must show some form of ownership or residency to be allowed in. The rules are in place to stop people who simply want to gawpe at the scene of the disaster, but they have been criticised considering that many people fled without any belongings at all.

However, residents are being warned to be aware that just because they have been allowed back it, that does not mean the city is now safe. They have been urged to be alert for powerlines which are down or othere hazards.

Tracy Mayberry along with his wife, his son, 12, and their five dogs have been living in hotels since fleeing their rental property. They said they were finding it hard to afford anywhere to stay because hotels have now stopped special rates they were offering to those who had to evacuate. He criticised authorities for concentrating on rebuilding rather than helping people in the short-term.

Residents are being warned not to be lulled into a false sense of security following heavy rainfall after the fire. After a long period of drought, the ground remains very dry and it is possible that wildfires could re-start.

 

 

 

 

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