The death toll from wildfires in the southern U.S. state of Tennessee rose to seven Wednesday when three more bodies were found in the ruins.
Officials said the fires had burned 700 homes and businesses, most of them in and around the popular tourist town of Gatlinburg. More than 14,000 people were told to evacuate Monday, and many are awaiting word on when they can go home. Officials are hoping to reopen the city as early as Friday.
"We're going to be OK," Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said Wednesday, even after his own house was destroyed.
Nearly 24 hours of drenching rain helped quench the devastating wildfires, and local officials have turned to cleanup and recovery efforts even as they battled their own personal crises. Several city officials, in addition to Werner, and firefighters lost their homes
The storms that brought the rain moved through the area as part of a system ravaging the Southeast, spawning suspected tornadoes in parts of Alabama and Tennessee, killing at least five people and injuring more than a dozen.
The wildfires, brought on in part by a deep drought, have been burning across parts of the southeastern U.S. for several weeks, but have only just started to destroy property.
Gatlinburg sits at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and attracts millions of tourists every year.
Park officials say more than 6,400 hectares of parkland have been burned so far.