Ottawa, May 14 (IANS) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived at Fort McMurray region of Alberta province to assess the damage by last week’s devastating wildfire.
Known as the “beast”, the fire has destroyed 2,400 homes and businesses, and displaced more than 94,000 people in the region. The fire, which is currently 2,400 sq.km in size, has moved away from Fort McMurray and is expected to burn forested areas for many more weeks, Xinhua news agency reported.
At a conference in the provincial capital of Edmonton on Friday, Trudeau said that despite having seen updates and images on TV, the scale and scope of what happened hit him hard during the tour of the affected region.
“I don’t think Canadians yet understand what happened,” he said, adding “They know there was a fire. They’re beginning to hear the wonderful news that so much of the town was saved.”
He said people do not yet understand that saving the town was not due to rain, a shift in the wind or luck, but by the back-breaking and sometimes heartbreaking “amazing” work in the incredibly long days.
There are currently 1,714 firefighters, 123 helicopters, 226 pieces of heavy equipment and 26 air tankers currently battling the fires.
The evacuees, now spread across the province and the country, are waiting for word on when they can return home, likely weeks from now. Many are looking to the federal government for money needed to rebuild the community.
Earlier this week, Trudeau hosted a special cabinet committee to coordinate the federal government’s contributions to the recovery and rebuilding efforts in northern Alberta.
According to a latest reports, there was no significant fire growth. However, there were four new fire starts on Friday night.
A total of 17 wildfires are burning with one out of control, two being held, eight under control and six turned over to the responsible parties.