Canada: 80,000 residents forced to flee wildfire

4th May 2016
Canada: 80,000 residents forced to flee wildfire

By Barry Ellsworth

 

TRENTON, Ont. (AA) – A raging wildfire forced the evacuation of 80,000 people, entire population of Fort McMurray, Alberta Province Premier Rachel Notley said Tuesday.

Those fleeing the blaze have caused gridlock on the two highways out of Fort McMurray and police have closed roads to all but essential vehicles.

“All of Fort McMurray is now under a mandatory evacuation order,” read a tweet from Fort McMurray Emergency Services. “Be patient, drive safely and please give way to emergency vehicles.”

It is the largest evacuation in the history of the province.

Notley said officials are looking for as many trained firefighters as possible to aid in the battle against the blaze. Nine air tankers and 12 helicopters are being used to fight the conflagration.

“Our focus is completely and entirely right now on ensuring the safety of the people and getting them out of the city,” Notley said during a press conference.

Fort McMurray, home of the Tar Sands, is an isolated community and routes to the south are blocked, forcing those who are fleeing to head further north.

“The south is blocked off, we’re being told to go north,” Fort McMurray resident Tim Perteet told CTV television news. “People on the streets are pretty scared.”

Compounding the problem is the fact that there is only room for about just 6,000 residents at camps to the north of the city, Notley said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the fire had reached the downtown core of the city. Fort McMurray’s lone hospital is being evacuated.

Jen McManus of the Canadian Red Cross told the Edmonton Journal newspaper that her organization is helping to get supplies such as cots and blankets to the Fort McMurray area. But delivering supplies is a challenge.

“We are waiting to hear how operational the airport is,” McManus said.

Some of the companies in the oil patch, not affected by the fire, are opening their camps to those fleeing the city.

Notley said she plans to travel to the Fort McMurray area Wednesday for a first-hand look at the devastation.

“All Albertans are watching this. All Albertans are with the people of Fort McMurray,” she said.

[Photo: By Javiramos43/ GNU Free Documentation License]

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