A huge wildfire in northern Canada continues to spread in dry weather and strong winds, and evacuation routes were temporarily impassable.
Canadian rescue authorities said that the convoy had to stop for about an hour because of wildfire smoke on Highway 63, south of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on May 6 (local time).
The police began escorting 50 vehicles at a time, south through the city on Highway 63, as the wildfire was worsening along the highway and threatening the safety of drivers.
Authorities estimate that more than 80,000 people have left Fort McMurray. Among them, 8,000 people were airlifted safely on May 5.
Some 15,000 people remain stranded in the city, and there have been no reports of casualties from the wildfire.
The Alberta government declared a provincial state of emergency on May 4, and the wildfire burned up at least 1,000 square kilometers by May 6.
Chad Morrison, Alberta’s manager of wildfire prevention, said there was a “high potential that the fire could double in size” by the end of Saturday, May 7.
Morrison added, “We have not seen rain in this area for the last two months of significance. This fire will continue to burn for a very long time until we see some significant rain.”
The weather forecast offered a glimmer of hope: a 40 percent chance of rain on May 8.
Experts say that the fire is driving one of the largest evacuations in North America in recent memory, and that an entire town has not been threatened on this scale for more than 100 years.
They also say that the wildfire disaster in Fort McMurray, Canada’s main oil sands city, has forced a quarter of Canada’s total oil output off-line and it can be a big economic blow to Canada.
According to the Globe and Mail—Canada’s second-largest newspaper, Canada’s total oil production is expected to drop as oil sands projects, pipelines and electrical facilities around For McMurray, where the wildfire has been burning for a week, have shut down.