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article imageTens of thousands flee fire-ravaged northern Alberta city

By Nathan Salant     May 8, 2016 in Environment
Fort Mcmurray - Canadian police and soldiers help thousands of residents evacuate south of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire continues to burn out-of-control in the country's oil sands region.
Authorities said Saturday that the fire, which is believed to have destroyed the city, could eventually burn all the way east to Saskatchewan, some 120 miles (190 km) away.
"The situation remains unpredictable and dangerous," Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Saturday.
More than 90,000 people have been ordered to evacuate from Fort McMurray and oil worker camps just north of the city, according to Cable News Network (CNN).
The massive fire has already burned more than 600 square miles (1,560 sq. km.), fed by extremely dry and windy conditions, Goodale said.
No fatalities have been reported but more than 1,600 structures have already been destroyed by the flames, which began May 1 and now cover an area larger than New York City, CNN said.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told CNN that more than 500 firefighters are fighting the Fort McMurray blaze, aided by 15 helicopters and 14 air tankers.
"I met families who had picked up and evacuated on a few hours' notice, who are understandably worried and anxious about what is going to happen next, about their children's schooling, about their belongings," Notley said.
Notley also said the Suncor and Syncrude oil companies to the north of Fort McMurray also were evacuating personnel, but their properties do not appear to be in immediate danger.
But the city's power grid has been damaged and the water is undrinkable, Notley said.
"I want to underline again that no one who is not a trained first responder with a specific job to do should be in Fort McMurray," she said.
Some residents who obeyed orders to evacuate had harrowing stories to tell.
"It was something like Armageddon," said Morgan Elliott, who was traveling south with his fiancee, Cara Kennedy, and their baby, Abigail.
"Everything was burnt, houses gone, it was like a scene out of movie," he said. .
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said Highway 63 south was the only road open for people leaving Fort McMurray, but Notley said 12,000 residents had been airlifted out of the city.
Many evacuees are expected to wind up in Edmonton, the provincial capital more than 200 miles (379 km) to the south, or Calgary, where residents and officials were scrambling to set up temporary accommodations.
"Canadians work together in the face of a disaster like this," Notley said.
More about Wildfire, Oil sands, Fort McMurray, Canada, Alberta
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