Wildfires ravage Slave Lake in Alberta, Canada
- 17 May 2011
- From the section US & Canada
Wildfires fuelled by high winds blazed through more than a third of a town in Canada's Alberta province, forcing thousands to flee, officials have said.
Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee said hundreds of firefighters converged on the town to help battle the blazes.
Emergency officials were knocking on doors on Tuesday to ensure all the town's 7,000 residents had evacuated.
No injuries or fatalities have been reported.
Alberta Municipal Affairs said the town's residents were ordered to evacuate on Sunday and that 95% of the town was empty by Monday, with only essential or firefighting staff remaining.
Alberta cabinet minister Thomas Lukaszuk said it was the largest single-day displacement of people in the province's history.
Ms Pillay-Kinnee, who toured Slave Lake on Monday afternoon, called the destruction in the town "truly devastating", adding that it would "take a while to rebuild".
"It's heart-wrenching as people lose their homes, their livelihood. For myself, I'm just trying to remain focused on the task at hand," Ms Pillay-Kinnee told the Calgary Herald newspaper.
Wildfires breached the town late on Sunday, reducing many homes and businesses to collapsed timber.
The government centre and library were destroyed by the blazes, while the police station and hospital remained unaffected.
By Monday evening, a blaze east of Slave Lake had consumed about 20 sq km (7.7 sq miles), and a fire south of the town had burned 150 sq km (57.9 sq miles).
More than 100 wildfires were burning in Alberta as of Monday, and roughly 40 of those fires were considered out of control, local media reported.
Fires forced oil companies in Alberta, the country's largest energy producing province, to shut off thousands of barrels of output.
The Canadian government has deployed 1,000 firefighters, 100 helicopters and 20 water bombers to battle wildfires throughout the entire province.