A Canadian official has said that a massive wildfire going on in the state of Alberta is likely to double in size, as evacuation efforts continue in the fire-ravaged oil city of Fort McMurray.
Canadian police led convoys of cars through the burning ghost town of Fort McMurray on Friday in a risky operation to get thousands of people to safety.
A day after 8,000 people left the oil city, authorities said 5,500 more were expected to be evacuated by the end of Friday and another 4,000 on Saturday.
More than 80,000 people have left the city in the heart of Canada’ oil sands, where the fire has torched 1,600 homes and other buildings, according to the Associated Press news agency quoting officials.
Syrian refugees escape from Fort McMurray fire
Some Syrian refugees escaped violence in their home country only to have to flee their new homes in Fort McMurray. The Globe and Mail reported on the Labak family, who had fled Syria in 2011 and arrived in Canada two months ago, settling into Fort McMurray.
“My kids, mom say, ‘What [do] we have to do? You said to us we will live there, we will live happy. Why that happened to us?'” Ms Labak told the newspaper. “That’s very bad. I can’t answer to them anything.”
The fire, ash and smell in the air as they fled the town were reminiscent of bombings at their home in Damascus. They told the Globe and Mail that the cots at the shelter near Fort McMurray reminded them of refugee camps. They left most of their belongings – including their passports – behind.
In Calgary, some Syrian refugees are organising a support group for victims of the fire on Facebook, the Calgary Herald reports.
“(Canadians) gave us everything. And now it’s time to return the favour,” Rita Khanchet, who came to Calgary from Syria five months ago, wrote in the group.
Money being collected by the group will go toward hygiene items for Fort McMurray evacuees.