Tour of Fort McMurray fire was a “powerful experience” – PM Trudeau

Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 10:27 GMT, May 14, 2016 |

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, getting a first-hand look at the damage from a devastating wildfire, praised firefighters on Friday (May 13) for defending the energy hub of Fort McMurray.

 He has promised the federal government will do everything it can to help in a rebuilding effort likely to take years.

“It was the first time I visited since the wildfires passed through the city. It was a very powerful experience. Together we had a chance to see both the incredible destruction that was the result of the fire and many of the homes and businesses that are still standing because of the efforts, incredible efforts of first responders,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau toured the town in a military helicopter and saw a patchwork of devastated neighbourhoods. Some homes still stood, while others had burned to their foundations.

He flew over the mostly intact downtown, as well as the town’s hospital, which firefighters saved in a furious battle against the spreading fire.

“It was the efforts of the firefighters that prevented us from losing 85 percent of the municipality,” Trudeau said at a news confernce in Edmonton after the tour.

“I have spoken with the first responders, the fire fighters, who detailed just how many interventions were made at various points, strategic moments that ended up saving neighbourhoods, indeed large portions of the community and that’s the story Canadians don’t really understand.”

“As of right now we don’t know how long it will take. We don’t know exactly what kinds of resources will be needed though we now have a much better scope of the devastation. The fire destroyed approximately 2400 structures and damaged 500 more. The important work of the when and where and how we can start to rebuild has only just begun,” Trudeau said.

Evacuees are collecting Alberta debit cards loaded with C$1,250 (£672) per adult and C$500 per dependent, as well as Canadian Red Cross aid of C$600 for each adult and C$300 for each child.