UPDATE 8-Raging fire threatens to reduce Canadian city to ashes, engulf airport

Thu May 5, 2016 12:55am EDT
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* Fort McMurray in the heart of Canada's oil sands region

* Commercial flights in and out of city halted, airport at risk

* Mandatory evacuation orders issued for communities to the south (Recasts updates with details on risk to airport, communities to the south)

By Rod Nickel

ANZAC, Alberta, May 4 (Reuters) - A massive wildfire that has forced all 88,000 people to flee the western Canadian oil city of Fort McMurray and burned down 1,600 structures is now threatening its airport and communities well south of the town, authorities said on Wednesday.

With a few neighborhoods already in ruins, worsening fire conditions Wednesday pushed walls of flames towards thousands of more homes in the northeastern Alberta town, in the heart of Canada's oil sands region.

The winds also pushed flames toward the local airport, with webcam images showing black smoke engulfing the airport late on Wednesday evening. Officials confirmed that a hotel north of main terminal had caught fire.

As flames fanned south, officials also issued mandatory evacuation orders for the Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation communities located about 50 km south of Fort McMurray.

Officials on the scene were forced to evacuate their make-shift emergency operations center for the second time in the span of less than a day as the flames spread south. Officials at the center said in a tweet that they were relocating to the town of Lac La Biche some 250 km south of Anzac.   Continued...