EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Alberta will have a plan within two weeks for getting residents of the wildfire-ravaged oil sands capital Fort McMurray back into their homes, the province's municipal affairs minister said Thursday.
Danielle Larivee told reporters that she realizes how stressful it is for evacuees — thousands of them in the Edmonton area — but that their safety is the most important thing. She said authorities still need to make sure there will be no more danger from the fires and that natural gas, water and a functioning hospital are all in place before residents return.
Larivee said temperatures in the area were forecast to rise next week as well as high winds, creating a high risk of more fires.
"We will be in extreme fire danger," she said.
Power and data service have been restored to Fort McMurray's downtown area and damage to homes is being assessed now, Larivee said.
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).
The fire burned about 2,400 homes and buildings in Fort McMurray but 90 percent of the city was saved.
Associated Press writer Charmaine Noronha contributed from Toronto.