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Canada wildfire 'could burn for months' without rainfall - officials

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By Joanna Gill  with AP, Reuters, Nasa, Canadian Wildland Fire Information System
Canada wildfire 'could burn for months' without rainfall - officials

One week on and the blaze nicknamed ‘the beast’ shows no signs of being tamed. The wildfire outside Fort McMurray in Canada is now heading towards the neighbouring province of Saskatchewan. Officials warn that without a significant amount of rainfall, the blaze could last for months.

This is still a highly dangerous situation

  • Covering more than 2,000 square kms
  • More than 88,000 people evacuated
  • 1,600 houses destroyed
  • One billion barrels of oil per day taken offline since Friday at oil sands sites
  • Set to be Canada’s costliest natural disaster with insurance estimate losses around 7 billion euros

“We were hoping that rain would really come down here but it looks like that’s going to stay to the north and to the west of this as it passes through,” said Mark Robinson, a meteorological expert working in Fort McMurray. As of Saturday afternoon, the blaze had covered an area of 1,569 square kilometres of land. Fire was also detected in Fort St John, in the province of British Columbia to the west of Alberta, spreading concerns the fire would span three provinces.

Ralph Goodale, Public Safety Minister told the press on Saturday, “We all have to be alert. This remains a big out of control dangerous fire…But you just can’t assume anything about this. It is not yet under control and this is still a highly dangerous situation.”

More than 40 fires are ripping through Alberta’s forests, with 12 new ones igniting on Saturday alone. Hot, dry winds are propelling the blaze northeast, threatening the country’s oil sands project. Around half of the country’s crude production from the sands had been taken offline as of Friday.

A timelapse captures the intensity of the blaze.

Large parts of Fort McMurray no longer exist, with more than 1,000 homes destroyed in the fire. Almost 100,000 residents who have fled were warned that they won’t be able to return home anytime soon.

British ESA astronaut Tim Peake tweeted the smoke trails that could be seen from space.