Repair crews assess Canada wildfire damage, oil firms plan restart

Tue May 10, 2016 5:00am EDT
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By Rod Nickel

FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta May 10 (Reuters) - Repair crews were expected to assess wildfire damage to the Canadian energy boomtown of Fort McMurray on Tuesday as the oil sands companies surrounding the ravaged city looked at bringing production back on line.

Political leaders got their first glimpse of the city on Monday since wildfire forced 88,000 residents to flee for safety. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said they were encouraged by how much of it escaped destruction, estimating almost 90 percent of its buildings were saved.

But the tour also revealed scenes of utter devastation, with blocks of homes reduced to blackened foundations, front steps and metal barbecues.

Notley said 2,400 structures had burned within the city while almost 25,000 were saved.

The fire, expected to grow further on Tuesday, ravaged some 204,000 hectares (504,000 acres) of Alberta. But it also moved far enough away from the evacuated town to allow an official delegation to visit on Monday.

Officials warned it was not safe for residents to return, with parts still smoldering and large areas without power, water and gas. Notley said repair crews will have weeks of work ahead of them to make the city safe.

The assessment by officials came a few hours after insurance experts revised sharply downward their estimates of the cost of damage from the blaze, which began on May 1.

Cooler weather, which has helped firefighters battling the blaze, was expected to linger through Thursday, according to Environment Canada. Still, much of Alberta is tinder-box dry after a mild winter and warm spring.   Continued...