UPDATE 3-Canadian oilfield workers readying return after wildfire

Wed May 11, 2016 9:09pm EDT
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* Alberta and Red Cross to distribute relief funds

* Enbridge restarts pipeline

* Fort McMurray still closed to residents (Adds details from police briefing, vehicles moving north toward oil sands plants)

By Nia Williams and Ernest Scheyder

CALGARY/LAC LA BICHE, Alberta, May 11 (Reuters) - Workers for one of the largest oil sands companies affected by a wildfire in northern Canada will begin returning to the shuttered facilities on Thursday, a union official said, the latest indication the key petroleum production area was slowly coming back online.

Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, the premier of the province of Alberta and the head of the Canadian Red Cross announced that residents of Fort McMurray, the oil-boom town that was evacuated last week because of the fire, would be offered direct financial aid.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau established an ad hoc cabinet committee to coordinate federal relief efforts. Trudeau will tour the fire zone on Friday.

Ken Smith, president of Unifor Local 707, the union that represents 3,400 Suncor Energy Inc workers, said the company would start to fly employees back to its oil sands base plant from Thursday.

"It will take a few days to get the plant up and in condition to start handling feed," Smith said.   Continued...