A state of emergency has been declared in the province of Alberta in Canada after a wildfire forced all 88,000 residents of Fort McMurray to flee.
Officials say the fast-moving blaze could destroy much of the city.
The fire, which broke out on Sunday in the heart on the country’s oil sands region, has gutted 1,600 buildings, including a new school.
The evacuation was the largest-ever in Alberta. Oil companies operating in the area have been forced to cut output.
Several firms have shut down some pipelines. This was done to help evacuate non-essential personnel, reports say, but oil facilities are not in the current path of the fire.
So far there have been no reports of deaths or injuries, but two women gave birth in one evacuation centre, Reuters new agency reported.
What residents witnessed It was something you’d see in a movie probably. I was stuck between a concrete barrier and the fire and I though ‘You know what? I might not make it out’.
“There’s whole neighbourhoods that are gone. A hotel burned down, a gas station exploded. One lady that I met she actually was sheltered behind like an electrical box when it actually exploded and she felt a shockwave Authorities said there had been no known casualties from the blaze itself, but fatalities were reported in at least one car crash among the evacuees. Thousands bunked down in arenas, hockey rinks and oil work camps, often short of fuel and food.
A huge cloud of black smoke was visible from well over 60 km (37 miles) away from the town. Traffic on the main road headed south had thinned to a trickle, however, after major jams on Tuesday when the evacuation order was given.
Stretches of the highway had been converted into make-shift campgrounds by people in cars, trucks and recreation vehicles, who were fleeing the inferno.
Firefighting crews have been unable to stop the wildfire, which has charred 18,500 acres (7,500 hectares) since it erupted on Sunday and exploded in ferocity. Fort McMurray itself is sealed off to all but the emergency services but it is reportedly a scene of devastation. The province declared a state of emergency for what was shaping up to be Canada’s costliest natural disaster.
Fort McMurray describes itself as the “gateway to the north” – a region which is home to the third largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
It may be remote, but Fort McMurray’s proximity to Canada’s rich oil sands has helped it to become a hugely prosperous place, drawing oil workers from across the world. Canada orders mass evacuation