Canada: Far North’s largest city evacuated due to wildfires | the world

Yellowknife residents were ordered to evacuate the main town in Canada’s far north by the end of the week due to the rapid progress of a wildfire, local officials said Wednesday evening.

Yellow knife © REUTERS

“Unfortunately, bushfire conditions west of Yellowknife are becoming very bad and are a real threat,” said Northwest Territories Environment Minister Shane Thompson, who ordered the evacuation of the town’s 20,000 residents at noon on Friday.

168,000 people have already been evacuated

Almost 168,000 people have been evacuated to Canada since the start of the fire season in the Northwest Territories, an area twice the size of the mainland that now has 230 active lights, breaking all records. Separated by hundreds of kilometers from each other, these villages are “particularly difficult” to evacuate by land, Mike Westwick of the regional fire department explained earlier this week, noting that a team from the Canadian military was facilitating air evacuations.

There is no “immediate danger” but…

Faced with the fire’s progress, the local environment minister asked people to evacuate Yellowknife by air or road on Wednesday evening. “The city is not in immediate danger … but without rain the fire could hit neighborhoods in the city later this week,” Thompson told a news conference. “If you stay until the weekend, you will put yourself and others at risk,” he added.

Army as reinforcements

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that the armed forces are still standing by to provide assistance to people in the Northwest Territories. “We will continue to provide you with the resources you need” and “provide all assistance,” he wrote on the X Network (formerly Twitter).

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“I can’t see anything in front of me”

Jordan Evoy, 28, who lives in a municipality of about 2,250 people currently under evacuation orders, fled his home by car and sought refuge in the neighboring province of Alberta. Military aircraft. “I couldn’t see anything in front of me (…) and there was no network, so I had no way of knowing where I was, it was even more painful”, he explains to AFP. Mr. Evoy feared his truck’s tires would “melt” in the heat. “The highway was engulfed in flames, it was the scariest moment of my life,” he commented.

Above 40 degrees, first

The neighboring province of British Columbia, hit hard by wildfires, also recorded mercury above the 40-degree Celsius mark, a first in Canada this year, the ministry told AFP on Tuesday. The city of Lytton saw its temperature soar to 41.4 degrees on Monday, two years after the country’s unprecedented “heat dome” blazed to 49.6 degrees.

Extreme weather

Canada, which due to its geographic location is warming faster than the rest of the planet, has experienced extreme weather events in recent years, the intensity and frequency of which has increased due to global warming.

Vehicles leave Yellowknife on the only highway in or out of the city after a state of emergency was declared due to the proximity of wildfires in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada on August 16, 2023.  REUTERS/Pat Kane
Vehicles leave Yellowknife on the only highway in or out of the city after a state of emergency was declared due to the proximity of wildfires in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada on August 16, 2023. REUTERS/Pat Kane © REUTERS

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