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Death toll from Tennessee wildfires up to 10

Published: Nov. 29, 2016 at 7:38 AM CST
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Update Thursday (12/1): 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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Update Wednesday (11/30): Officials say the death toll from the east Tennessee wildfires has risen to seven after three more bodies were recovered.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Gatlinburg says officials are discussing re-opening the city later this week after wildfires forced the evacuation of thousands of residents and tourists.

Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said Wednesday that the resort mountain city may re-open Friday so business owners can assess the damage and hopefully begin paying their employees again.

He says the evacuation orders must remain in place until then because there are still areas that haven't been searched and places where power lines are down.

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Gatlinburg, Tennessee, will have to pick up whatever pieces are left of their town after strong winds pushed through wildfires Monday night.

Three people were killed and at least 150 buildings were destroyed. Officials surveying early damage said the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa, with more than 100 buildings, is likely entirely gone.

The theme park Dollywood, in nearby Pigeon Forge, was spared any significant damage.

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Officials say three people have died in wildfires in Sevier County, Tenn. The fires have destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses. About 14,000 people were forced to evacuate Sevier County.

Responders still are trying to evaluate the destruction caused by the flames that spread with little warning from the Great Smoky Mountains.

"Ash was raining down like snow," Jonathan Frye, who evacuated his home Monday night with his wife and children, told CNN.

Frye is a chef at Dollywood and lives just a few miles from the park. He told CNN the smoke was so thick it was hard to see the car in front of him as he drove away from the fires, which he could see from his doorstep. His home was not damaged.

Some major tourist attractions appeared to have been spared by the fires that spread to the communities Monday evening, and Gatlinburg's fire chief said the worst appeared to be over Tuesday morning.

On Twitter Tuesday afternoon, Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg reported that its 10,000 animals at the attraction are safe.

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Wildfires around Gatlinburg, Tennessee, have forced workers at an aquarium to evacuate, but more than 10,000 animals are still in the building.

Ryan DeSears, general manager of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, tells WBIR-TV that the building was still standing and all workers evacuated last night. He says the animals should be safe as long as the building has power and doesn't catch fire.

The wildfire set 30 buildings ablaze and forced the evacuation of downtown Gatlinburg and the surrounding area.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)