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New Mexico's raging wildfires: 500 structures ravaged, residents struggle to breathe; WATCH dramatic videos

Thousands of southern New Mexico residents fled a mountainous village as a wind-whipped wildfire tore through homes and other buildings, and killed at least one person. Officials warned the danger isn't over.

Deadly wildfires rage New Mexico village, destroy over 500 structures; WATCH dramatic videos gcw
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First Published Jun 19, 2024, 1:21 PM IST

At least one person has tragically lost their life due to the fast-spreading wildfires ravaging New Mexico, according to officials. The state's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has confirmed receiving reports of a single fatality, though further details have not been provided.

The wildfires have been ravaging through Lincoln County and the Mescalero Apache Reservation, converging on the village of Ruidoso "like a pair of tongs" and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate. 

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has stated that at least two individuals were also injured in the blazes. The governor has declared a state of emergency in the affected areas, as the fires have already damaged an estimated 500 structures. Extremely dry conditions and high winds have fuelled the destruction, as per authorities.

The South Fork Fire, which began on Mescalero Apache tribal land, has grown to nearly 14,000 acres with zero percent containment. 

A second fire, the Salt Fire, is also burning on tribal land south of Ruidoso, having scorched 4,800 acres. Evacuation orders remain in place for Ruidoso, the neighbouring community of Ruidoso Downs, and parts of the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation. 

Residents have described a chaotic scene as they fled the area, with the sky turning orange and smoke making it difficult to breathe.

Concerns over shifting wind patterns have officials worried about the potential for additional homes to be impacted. However, forecasts indicate more favourable weather conditions for firefighters, with a chance of significant rainfall expected later this week.

The wildfires' explosive growth has highlighted the severe drought conditions affecting much of New Mexico, with the state's southeast region considered to be in "exceptional drought." 

As the community of Ruidoso, a popular tourist destination, works to recover from this disaster, the tragic loss of life and extensive damage serve as a stark reminder of the increasing threat posed by climate change-fueled wildfires.

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