Thousands flee incoming wildfires in Canada's Quebec

In this aerial image, an aircraft, center, flies near a wildfire burning near Barrington Lake in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (Communications Nova Scotia/The Canadian Press via AP)

Some 10,000 people have been ordered to evacuate from a city in the Canadian province of Quebec in the face of advancing wildfires, officials said.

Steeve Beaupre, mayor of Sept-Iles on St. Lawrence River, declared a local state of emergency and announced on Friday a mandatory evacuation after nearby wildfires "advanced very quickly" overnight.

Residents were told in the morning to vacate their homes by 4 pm [local time].

Stephane Lauzon, a member of Parliament from Quebec, told a news conference in Ottawa that as many as 10,000 residents or one-third of the population of Sept-Iles would be displaced.

This followed the evacuation on Thursday of 500 residents of Chapais in the north of the province.

"The situation is quickly changing in Quebec," Lauzon said, adding that about 100 fires, "many more than yesterday," were burning in the province, including about 20 out of control.

'Scary time'

Officials hoped rain and cooler weather forecast for the weekend following a record-breaking heat wave will bring relief.

Almost 1,000 firefighters from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States also arrived or were en route to bolster firefighting efforts, and Ottawa has started to deploy the military in Nova Scotia to help out, according to Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.

"This is a scary time for a lot of people from coast to coast to coast," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters.

Canada is experiencing one of the worst starts to wildfire season, with forest fires burning in nearly all provinces and forcing tens of thousands of evacuations since late April.

More than 2.7 million hectares have been scorched so far this year across the country, equal to more than five million football fields, federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair has said.

That's more than 10 times the average area typically burned by this time of year over the past decade.

In a Friday morning briefing, Blair said there were 214 fires burning across Canada, 93 out of control, and 29,000 people evacuated.

"The situation remains severe across the country," Blair said.

"Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia - they are all experiencing interface wildfires," he said, referring to fires that have the potential to impact buildings and forest fuel or vegetation simultaneously.

Wildfires are common in Canada's western provinces, but this year the eastern province of Nova Scotia is reeling from its worst-ever wildfire season.

The Atlantic province has had nearly 200 wildfires that have burned more than 19,000 hectares and displaced more than 25,000 people, compared with 152 fires that burned 3,390 hectares in 2022.


Source: TRT