The massive wildfire that has swept the Canadian oil city of Fort McMurray has caused 88,000 people to flee their homes, burned down 1,600 structures and is now leaping at the airport and neighborhoods south of the area, in Canada’s oil sands region.
Officials have confirmed in a report to Reuters that the worsening fire conditions on Wednesday had set a hotel north of the airport’s main terminal ablaze. Walls of flames fanning south have pushed authorities to issue mandatory evacuations for the Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation communities.
Medical, law and government personnel were forced to leave their makeshift operations center for the second time as the fire headed south. Officials said in a tweet that they were relocating to the town of Lac La Biche about 250 km south of Anzac.
No fatalities have been reported from the fire itself, but there have been casualties from at least one car crash among the evacuees.
Thousands of displaced residents camped out in arenas, hockey rinks and oil work camps, as well as stretches of highways by those in vehicles. The Canadian Red Cross said evacuees were reaching out to them for help in obtaining food and water.
Firefighters were unable to contain the wildfire, which has burned through 18,500 acres since it began on Sunday. Wildfires also blazed in British Columbia on Wednesday, including a 9,000 hectare wall of fire in the northeast that was threatening to cross the border into Alberta, the B.C. Wildfire Service said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the military will be able to deploy air force planes to Fort McMurray as needed. Alberta’s transport department has also escorted a fuel tanker north to help drivers stranded on the roads.
The province of Alberta declared a state of emergency for what seems to be Canada’s costliest natural disaster, says the BBC.