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List of missing residents shrinks as New Mexico village seeks recovery from wildfires

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List of missing residents shrinks as New Mexico village seeks recovery from wildfires
News

News

List of missing residents shrinks as New Mexico village seeks recovery from wildfires

2024-06-26 03:28 Last Updated At:03:31

The number of residents still unaccounted for has been shrinking significantly after thousands of people fled their homes as two fast-moving wildfires approached their village in southern New Mexico, Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford said Tuesday.

Search and rescue crews have cleared more properties in the areas of Ruidoso, the mountain community hardest hit by the flames, and village officials and volunteers from the American Red Cross have been working through social media to list all those found to be “safe.”

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Robert Greenamyer, a full-time resident of Ruidoso, N.M., waits in his car for re-entry into the fire-ravaged village, Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

The number of residents still unaccounted for has been shrinking significantly after thousands of people fled their homes as two fast-moving wildfires approached their village in southern New Mexico, Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford said Tuesday.

National Guard vehicles block roads to "no entry/ exclusion zones" that will remain inaccessible due to ongoing recovery operations after wildfires ravaged the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

National Guard vehicles block roads to "no entry/ exclusion zones" that will remain inaccessible due to ongoing recovery operations after wildfires ravaged the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Vehicles line up for re-entry on Highway 70 as full-time residents return to Ruidoso, N.M., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Vehicles line up for re-entry on Highway 70 as full-time residents return to Ruidoso, N.M., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Electricity poles burned by the South Fork Fire partially block a road in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Electricity poles burned by the South Fork Fire partially block a road in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of a business destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of a business destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of a house destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured among the effects of flash floods in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of a house destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured among the effects of flash floods in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Smoke rises off the remains of a house destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Smoke rises off the remains of a house destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Houses destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. . (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Houses destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. . (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

A charred car and the remains of the Swiss Chalet Hotel are pictured after being destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

A charred car and the remains of the Swiss Chalet Hotel are pictured after being destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of the Wild West Ski Shop, destroyed by the South Fork Fire, are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of the Wild West Ski Shop, destroyed by the South Fork Fire, are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Just a few people remained on the list Tuesday as unaccounted for. They include those authorities have yet to make contact with and who have not been heard from by family and friends.

Crawford said during his regular radio address that he hoped to get the list down to zero.

“We feel good that we're getting that number down ... but we have to be sure,” he said.

About 1,000 firefighters were assigned to the fires in Ruidoso, as other crews were busy responding to reports of new fires around the region. In all, more than 100 new fires — most of them small — were reported in New Mexico and Arizona over the last seven days, according to the multiagency Southwest Coordination Center based in Albuquerque.

Federal officials have been working to streamline their response to major wildfires, starting with the deployment of complex incident management teams when there are significant threats to homes and infrastructure. That was the case with the fires in Ruidoso, which has a permanent population of about 8,000 and can triple during the summer months when tourists flood in.

Nationwide, more than a dozen large uncontained fires are currently burning, according to the National Interagecy Fire Center. Aside from the South Fork and Salt fires in Ruidoso, complex incident management teams are assigned to blazes in Washington and Colorado.

With more streets in Ruidoso being cleared by the special teams and their search dogs, village officials were able to open up more areas of the village on Tuesday. Some areas that have yet to be searched and spots where post-fire flooding remain a concern remained off limits.

Firefighters were helped over recent days by rainfall, cooler temperatures and high humidity levels. They have been focused on pockets of unburned fuel to ensure no flare-ups with drier weather expected over the next two days.

The fires were first reported June 17. Within hours, flames moved through tinder-dry parts of the Sacramento Mountains from Mescalero Apache tribal land toward Ruidoso. Evacuation orders included thousands of homes, businesses and the Ruidoso Downs horse track, prompting traffic jams as people dropped everything and fled.

About 40 square miles were charred before crews were able to corral the flames. At least two deaths have been confirmed, and an estimated 1,500 structures have been destroyed or damaged.

The FBI is investigating, offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrests and convictions of those responsible for the human-caused fires.

Robert Greenamyer, a full-time resident of Ruidoso, N.M., waits in his car for re-entry into the fire-ravaged village, Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Robert Greenamyer, a full-time resident of Ruidoso, N.M., waits in his car for re-entry into the fire-ravaged village, Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

National Guard vehicles block roads to "no entry/ exclusion zones" that will remain inaccessible due to ongoing recovery operations after wildfires ravaged the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

National Guard vehicles block roads to "no entry/ exclusion zones" that will remain inaccessible due to ongoing recovery operations after wildfires ravaged the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Vehicles line up for re-entry on Highway 70 as full-time residents return to Ruidoso, N.M., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Vehicles line up for re-entry on Highway 70 as full-time residents return to Ruidoso, N.M., Monday, June 24, 2024. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Electricity poles burned by the South Fork Fire partially block a road in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Electricity poles burned by the South Fork Fire partially block a road in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of a business destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of a business destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of a house destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured among the effects of flash floods in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of a house destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured among the effects of flash floods in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Smoke rises off the remains of a house destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Smoke rises off the remains of a house destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Houses destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. . (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Houses destroyed by the South Fork Fire are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. . (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

A charred car and the remains of the Swiss Chalet Hotel are pictured after being destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

A charred car and the remains of the Swiss Chalet Hotel are pictured after being destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of the Wild West Ski Shop, destroyed by the South Fork Fire, are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The remains of the Wild West Ski Shop, destroyed by the South Fork Fire, are pictured in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

HELSINKI (AP) — Estonia’s president formally appointed the Baltic country’s new government on Monday after lawmakers gave the green light to Prime Minister-designate Kristen Michal’s three-party coalition Cabinet.

Addressing the new Cabinet, which is to be sworn in Tuesday, President Alar Karis said the government's comfortable majority in the 101-seat Riigikogu, or Parliament, brings along “special responsibility."

Under a revised government program agreed on Friday, Michal’s first Cabinet will focus on improving Estonia’s ailing state finances, among other things, through hiking income tax and value added tax, in addition to raising the excise tax on alcohol, tobacco and gasoline.

In a 64-27 vote, lawmakers approved the proposed government of Michal, who is a seasoned politician but a first-time prime minister, from the governing center-right Reform Party.

The 49-year-old Michal, who earlier served as climate, justice and economics minister, was tapped to become Estonia’s new prime minister in late June, just days after his predecessor Kaja Kallas was chosen to be the European Union’s new foreign policy chief — a post she will take up later this year.

Kallas, Estonia’s first female head of government, formally resigned a week ago after which Michal started sounding possibilities for a broad-based coalition Cabinet. Following intense talks with parties last week, he decided to stick with the composition of Kallas’ outgoing government with senior partner Reform Party supported by the center-left Social Democrats and the liberal Estonia 200 party.

In addition to finances, the new Cabinet also pledges to continue investing strongly into defense and security in the small NATO nation of 1.3 million that borders Russia to the east.

In the key Cabinet posts, Margus Tsahkna from Estonia 200 will continue as foreign minister and Social Democrat Lauri Läänemets as interior minister. Reform’s veteran politician Jürgen Ligi makes a return to a government post and takes over the finance minister portfolio.

Michal has been active in the Reform Party, Estonia’s dominant party, since the late 1990s. He served as minister for climate affairs in Kallas’ last Cabinet, which took office in April 2023.

Michal also served as Reform’s party secretary and as a member of Tallinn City Council. He is set to take over Reform's chairmanship from Kallas in the fall.

Estonia's new government is formally appointed. Its first priority is to improve state finances

Estonia's new government is formally appointed. Its first priority is to improve state finances

Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas speaks during her arrival at the NATO summit in Washington, Thursday, July 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas speaks during her arrival at the NATO summit in Washington, Thursday, July 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Estonia's new government is formally appointed. Its first priority is to improve state finances

Estonia's new government is formally appointed. Its first priority is to improve state finances

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