US & Canada

Couple among 13 dead in Tennessee fire

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Media captionJeffrey and Jeri Morgan return to find remains of their home

Tennessee officials on Friday raised the death toll caused by wildfires to 13, including a missing couple who were on a family holiday.

Jon and Janet Summers, both 61, died and their three adult sons were severely injured as they fled the fire.

The Memphis couple had been in the resort area for a birthday celebration.

Residents and business owners were being allowed to return to the city of Gatlinburg, where fires have raged all week.

Wildfires- Why they start and how they can be stopped

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Image caption The fires were spread by high winds and a summer of drought-like conditions

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters also announced during a Friday news conference that one victim appeared to have suffered a heart attack while fleeing the flames due to smoke inhalation.

"I can't describe to you the feelings we have over this tragedy," the mayor told reporters and politicians who had gathered for the press conference.

Authorities have also increased to 1,000 their estimate of how many structures have been damaged in the region.

Officials say at least 85 people have been treated in hospital, mostly for burns.

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Image caption Rain helped squelch the spread of the fire

Bowing to pressure from home and business owners on Friday, city officials began to allow some people to return to the city.

Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle says residents have to pass through checkpoints and show proof of ownership or residency.

She adds that the city has not been deemed safe, as power lines are still down and other dangers still lurk among the rubble.

Family members have also confirmed the death of Alice Hagler, who had been missing from Chalet Village, a neighbourhood of rental cabins.

John Tegler, 71, and Janet Tegler, 70, also died in Chalet Village, a medical examiner told the Tennessean newspaper.

The National Park Service has said the blaze was "human-caused" and probably began in the Great Smoky Mountains, American's most visited national park.

Most of the fires are now extinguished, due to heavy rains, but officials warn that sporadic flames can still be seen, and that the rain does not make up for the drought conditions that plagued the region all summer.

More than 14,000 people were forced to evacuate the resort city of Gatlinburg earlier in the week.

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Media captionDolly Parton said she was "heartbroken" by the fires

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, home of country music star Dolly Parton's Dollywood resort, receive about 11 million visitors annually.

Dollywood, which was threatened by the flames but ultimately spared, was also reopening on Friday.

Ms Parton said she was "heartbroken" by the fires and that she was "praying for all the families affected".

She has set up a charity to help those displaced by the fires.

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