Thousands of Tenn. aquarium animals safe after wildfire threatens area

Fire engulfs the mountainside behind the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. (WLTX)
Fire engulfs the mountainside behind the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. (WLTX)

UPDATE:

2:00 P.M. — Aquarium officials in wildfire-threatened Gatlinburg, Tennessee, say they have a team of biologists inside the facility and all of the 10,000 fish and other animals are safe.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies made the announcement in a statement Tuesday, hours after workers had to flee the building when wildfires fueled by high winds spread across parts of eastern Tennessee. More than 14,000 people in the city were forced to leave and an entire resort was wiped out by the fire. A dozen people were injured but no deaths have been reported.

Aquarium officials say police escorted an “emergency team” back into the facility to check on the animals Tuesday.

The aquarium will remain closed until the evacuation orders are lifted. Officials say more than 2 million people visit the aquarium each year.


(ORIGINAL STORY)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — A county mayor in Tennessee says an aquarium threatened by wildfires is intact and running on a generator.

At a news conference Tuesday, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters says Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was okay as of Tuesday morning. Workers there evacuated and have been worried about the more than 10,000 animals housed there.

Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller says 12 people have been injured in the wildfires in the Gatlinburg area, most with non-life-threatening injuries. He says they haven’t received any reports of missing people.

Miller said the fire spread Monday night by winds that at times exceeded 87 miles per hour.

 

 

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