Gatlinburg (Agenzia Fides) - There are many residents of the diocese of Knoxville who have lost their homes and their jobs or even business, in the fires that devastated the tourist areas of the Great Smoky Mountains region on November 29, said the Bishop of Knoxville His Exc. Mgr. Richard F. Stika in a statement sent to Fides. According to news agencies, there have been at least seven deaths and 45 people seriously injured. The next day, on November 30, two other people died when a tornado swept Tennessee. At least 300 structures were damaged or destroyed in Gatlinburg, another 700 in the Sevier County area.
"The Catholic community in East Tennessee continues to pray for those who have been affected by the fires in Gatlinburg" informs Bishop Stika, who has asked for concrete aid for the inhabitants of the area. Sister Mary Christine Cremin, director of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, is coordinating aid to the population of Gatlinburg and Sevier County.
The Department of Agriculture has reported that there are still 47 fires under control, which have destroyed 6,000 hectares. The population of Knoxville, more than 180 thousand inhabitants, is on alert. The town of Gatlinburg, 4,100 inhabitants, has been evacuated. (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 02/12/2016)