19 Jun 2024, 09:52

Thousands evacuated as wildfires ravage New Mexico

 LOS ANGELES, June 19, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Two wildfires burning out of control in New Mexico forced more than 7,000 people to flee Tuesday from a mountainous region of the southwestern US state, where 500 structures have been damaged or destroyed.

The fires broke out Monday in a rural area about a 90-minute drive from the Mexican border, and have encircled the town of Ruidoso, where residents have been hastily evacuated.

"I strongly urge residents of Ruidoso and the surrounding areas to remain calm and heed official instructions to help minimize risk," Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said on X, the former Twitter. She declared a state of emergency in the region.

By mid-day Tuesday, the two blazes were zero percent contained, and had scorched some 30 square miles (80 square kilometers) and impacted more than 500 structures, according to New Mexico fire authorities.

The larger South Fork fire grew rapidly and has exhibited "extreme" behavior and "intense heat," according to the latest bulletin. Authorities fear strong winds could complicate firefighting efforts.

New Mexico has endured years of persistent drought, which scientists say has been aggravated by climate change.

Elsewhere in the American West, California is experiencing its biggest fire of the year. It has burned over 23 square miles since Saturday, although no evacuations have been ordered.

Experts say it could be an indicator of an intense fire season in California, the nation's most populous state, after two wetter-than-average years.

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