Canadian PM arrives in fire-ravaged region

Canadian PM arrives in fire-ravaged region
Posted at 12:57 PM, May 13, 2016

FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta (AP) — Canada's Prime Minister landed in Fort McMurray on Friday and boarded a military helicopter to assess the damage caused by a raging wildfire that forced the evacuation of more than 88,000 people in the country's oil sands capital.

Justin Trudeau arrived almost two weeks after a massive wildfire ignited, tearing through the Alberta town and surrounding areas, causing several oil sands operations to shut down. Alberta officials say they will have a plan within two weeks for getting residents back into their homes.

Trudeau was scheduled to tour one of the city's damaged neighborhoods and visit with first responders and volunteers. He planned to meet with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley later in the day.

Alberta officials say 2,432 structures have been destroyed, 530 damaged and 25,000 saved. The fire is now 930 square miles (2,410 square kilometers) in size and has moved away from the city. It's expected to burn in forested areas for at least a few more weeks.

More than 80,000 evacuees have begun receiving direct financial assistance from the Alberta government and the Canadian Red Cross as officials asked for patience in getting residents home.

Canadian Red Cross chief executive Conrad Sauve has said that each adult will receive $600 Canadian (US$467) and each child will get $300 Canadian (US$234) in what he called the most important and fastest direct cash transfer in the organization's history. It totals $50 million Canadian. (US$39 million).

That's in addition to the $1,250 Canadian (US$973) per adult and $500 Canadian (US$390) per dependent from the government.

Trudeau's government has put together a special cabinet committee to co-ordinate Fort McMurray aid and reconstruction efforts.