The gargantuan fire is currently raging through 101,000 hectares of land, senior wildfire manager Chad Morrison told reporters on Friday. Temperatures are expected to reach 27° Celsius on Saturday, which could double the size of the fire by the end of the day, Morrison added.
There are still thousands of evacuees hiding out in oil sands work camps north of the city that need to be moved as soon as possible, officials warn. Luckily, many of these camps have runways for small aircraft, which have been used to evacuate some 7,000 people already. At least 5,500 more will be airlifted out later on Friday.
However, some 1,200 vehicles finally managed to pass the inferno by late Friday afternoon, AP reported.
It could take up to four days to move everyone out, according to officials.
The total number of people that have fled Fort McMurray and nearby residential areas since Tuesday could now amount to well over 90,000 people.
Meanwhile, as the evacuees are slowly settling into emergency centers, more and more stories about their escapes are emerging.
Officials are warning that it could take weeks to extinguish the massive fire, adding that rain is badly needed. So far, the firefighters have only been able to prevent the fire from reaching a number of communities, but otherwise their progress has been minimal.
“We do need some rain, there is no question about it. And even once we get rain, there’s still going to be a lot of fire out there and a lot of work,” Morrison said. “We’ll be here for weeks and weeks to put that fire out.”
In order to help those displaced by the fire from the Fort McMurray area, Alberta’s provincial government has announced the allotment of $100-million in emergency cash. Premier Rachel Notley said that emergency cash payments of $1,250 will be made per adult, and $500 per dependent.
Meanwhile, Canadian economists are trying to project the damage to the Canadian economy, with many downgrading their growth forecasts.
The most recent estimate expects that anywhere from 900,000 to one million barrels of oilsands production has been lost. The area usually produces about 1.4 million barrels per day.