FORT MCMURRAY – The Alberta government is providing cash to 80,000 evacuees from the Fort McMurray fire to help them with their immediate needs.
Premier Rachel Notley says payments will be $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent at a cost to the province of $100 million.
“One of the key issues facing people displaced by this disaster is immediate challenges: food and shelter,” she told a morning briefing in Edmonton.
“As we did after the Slave Lake fire and the southern Alberta flood, cabinet today authorized the government to provide emergency financial assistance to people who have been displaced.”
Notley said she wants people who were forced from their homes to know that the government “has their back.”
“We are going to make sure you have the help you need today, tomorrow and in the weeks and months to come as we rebuild.”
She also said efforts are continuing to move evacuees who have been staying in oilfield camps north of Fort McMurray since the fire forced a mandatory evacuation on Tuesday.
The plan is to airlift another 5,500 today and to move about 500 vehicles in a convoy through the devastated city and south from there.
About 7,000 people were flown out of the camps on Thursday.
The fire, which started on the weekend in an isolated forest about 15 kilometres from the city, has grown to 1,000 square kilometres.
Fire official Chad Morrison says the circumstances were such that no amount of a buffer between the city and the forest could have prevented the flames from moving into Fort McMurray.
The RCMP and military were overseeing the convoy which began around 6 a.m. Friday. Sgt. John Spaans, an RCMP spokesman, said 50 vehicles at a time were being allowed to go through Fort McMurray on Highway 63.
Spaans said the RCMP was marshalling the movement with cars at the front and rear and police were monitoring progress overhead in military helicopters.
“That’s why we had the helicopters … just to make sure the motorists and responders are safe in case there’s a sudden change in fire direction,” he said.
“They would be able to notify everyone immediately.”
All intersections along the convoy route were blocked off to ensure no one went astray. Police said no one would be allowed to stop.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that Ottawa has met all of the Alberta government’s requests for assistance, including providing air assets and 7,000 cots for evacuees in emergency shelters. Another 13,000 are on the way.
He also urged people to continue donating to the Red Cross. Pledges so far have brought in more than $30 million. The federal government has said it will match individual donations.
Officials again did not update the number of structures that have burned in Fort McMurray — already at 1,600 — saying crews had not had the time to take count.
Firefighters also continued to fight the blaze near the evacuated community of Anzac. Notley said the village remained “largely intact.”