Officials Partially Contain Texas Wildfire, Search for Missing Residents

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Ben Sklar / Reuters

Bastrop area resident Micah Goldfarbe surveys part of the 35,000-acre wildfire

At least 1,554 homes have been destroyed by the worst wildfire in state history.

Of the people who have been ordered to leave their homes, 17 failed to check in at any shelter and have not been in touch with the authorities. But officials aren’t rushing to conclusions, acknowledging that anyone unaccounted for might simply be out of town.

(PHOTOS: Severe Drought in Texas)

A week ago, there was hope that Tropical Storm Lee might bring some much-needed rain to drought-stricken Texas. But its strong winds instead helped ignite 190 wildfires throughout the state. The biggest one, which struck Bastrop County, was formed when two fires merged. Officials said the fire is now 50% contained.

Evacuees have expressed frustration about not being given enough time to gather important belongings before being forced to leave their homes. Many are now anxious to return to the evacuated areas to see what remains, which some will be allowed to do this week.

More than 80% of Texas is categorized as experiencing “exceptional drought,” the most severe level in the government’s monitoring system, with no relief of rain in sight. (via Reuters)

MORE: Why Texas’ Drought May Have Global Effects