Canada wildfire forces mass evacuation in Fort McMurray
04 May 2016
The entire population of the Canadian city of Fort McMurray has been forced to evacuate because of a huge wildfire. Some 80,000 people were told to leave as the blaze swept into the city, which is the gateway to the oil sands region. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley called it the biggest evacuation in the history of the province and that the most important priority was to get people safely out of the city.
Emergency shelters have been set up in oil sands work camps to the north of Fort McMurray, where many have fled. Flames have forced the closure of the main road south, Highway 63. No casualties have been reported so far.
Around 100 firefighters and more than 20 helicopters and water bomber aircraft are tackling the blaze, which has destroyed dozens of homes, petrol stations and businesses.
The fire started on May 1 south of Fort McMurray, some 380km north of the provincial capital, Edmonton. The fire was contained until May 3, when high temperatures and strong winds pushed the flames towards the city.
Fort McMurray is the hub of Alberta’s oil sands region. Most oil sands projects are well north of the community, while the worst of the flames were on the city’s south side.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said the Federal government would offer support to the city and the province.
Brian Jean, the leader of Alberta’s opposition party and a resident of the city, said much of downtown Fort McMurray was facing destruction: “My home of the last 10 years and the home I had for 15 years before that are both destroyed.”