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Wildfires Sweep Through Drought-stricken Southeastern US

  • VOA News

A fire burns at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in this photo tweeted by the National Parks Service, Nov. 29, 2016. Officials closed all facilities due to extensive fire activity and downed trees.

A fire burns at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in this photo tweeted by the National Parks Service, Nov. 29, 2016. Officials closed all facilities due to extensive fire activity and downed trees.

U.S. National Guard troops have been deployed to help as firefighters battle wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and other structures in Gatlinburg, ((in the southern U.S. state of)) Tennessee, and surrounding areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

The troops are transporting first responders, performing welfare checks and clearing debris.

The wildfires have forced the evacuations of more than 14,000 people in Gatlinburg alone. Others have been evacuated from nearby Pigeon Forge and elsewhere in Sevier County. Many of the evacuees are staying in shelters in Pigeon Forge.

Motorists stop to view wildfires in the Great Smokey Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, U.S., November 28, 2016.

Motorists stop to view wildfires in the Great Smokey Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, U.S., November 28, 2016.

A 16-story hotel is among the structures that have been destroyed.

At least a dozen people have been injured, three critically, but no deaths have been reported.

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are popular tourist destinations. One of the more popular attractions is Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. Workers were forced to flee the aquarium but officials said a team of biologists was inside the facility and that all of the 10,000 fish and other animals are safe.

The National Weather Service reported a wind advisory remains in effect in the area through Wednesday. The winds are also fueling dozens of other wildfires in the drought-stricken southern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia.

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