Canada's Trudeau tours Alberta oil town ravaged by wildfire

Fri May 13, 2016 12:35pm EDT
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By Ernest Scheyder

LAC LA BICHE, Alberta May 13 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday saw the devastation caused by a wildfire that tore through the Alberta town of Fort McMurray and forced several oil sands operations to shut.

The inferno is the first natural disaster to confront Trudeau, whose Liberals took power in November. He promises the federal government will do everything it can to help in a rebuilding effort likely to take years.

"The people of Fort McMurray have been through so much and are still standing strong," Trudeau said via Twitter. "I'm looking forward to visiting and being with you today."

He was seen on television boarding a helicopter in the town for an aerial tour.

Trudeau has faced criticism in Alberta, a province that does not usually vote for his party, for waiting more than a week to survey the damage. The prime minister has said he did not want his visit to interfere with firefighting efforts.

"I think it's a good thing he's coming," said Fort McMurray housekeeper Maureen Pearce at a supply center for evacuees in Lac La Biche, Alberta. "I hope he provides more aid."

After touring the most damaged areas, Trudeau will hold a news conference with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley at 5:15 p.m. ET (2115 GMT) in the provincial capital of Edmonton.

The 88,000 people who were evacuated hurriedly as the town caught fire are living in temporary accommodation across the province while authorities work to restore power, gas, water and communications.   Continued...