UPDATE 7-Canadian wildfire edges south, leaves thousands stranded

Fri May 6, 2016 2:01am EDT
 
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* Fort McMurray residents will be unable to return for a while

* Ground evacuation of those to the north expected early Friday

* Flames spread south, threaten two oil sands sites - officials (Recasts with warnings of no quick return to city, details on oil facilities, update from emergency officials in Fort McMurray)

By Rod Nickel and Liz Hampton

CONKLIN/LAC LA BICHE, Alberta, May 5 (Reuters) - The 88,000 residents who fled a wildfire that has ravaged the Canadian oil town of Fort McMurray in Alberta will not be able to return home anytime soon, officials warned on Thursday, even as the inferno edged slowly south.

The out-of-control blaze has consumed entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray in Canada's energy heartland and officials warn its spread now threatens two oil sands sites south of the city.

The wildfire has already forced precautionary production cuts or shutdowns at about a dozen major facilities, eating into a global crude surplus and supporting oil prices this week.

"The damage to the community of Fort McMurray is extensive and the city is not safe for residents," said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in a press briefing late Thursday, as those stranded in camps and on the roadside to the north of the city clamored for answers.   Continued...