May 14, 2016 - 2:10 AM EDT
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Canada PM says magnitude of Fort McMurray fire difficult to comprehend

Toronto, May 14 (EFE).- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said after touring the western city of Fort McMurray, which was completely evacuated 11 days ago due to a massive wildfire, that it was difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy.

Trudeau flew in a military helicopter for more than an hour Friday surveying the destruction in that oil industry hub, which is home to 70,000 people.

The city, located in the northeastern part of Alberta province, was totally evacuated in just a few hours on May 3 when the wildfire that had begun a few days earlier rapidly and unexpectedly approached Fort McMurray's outskirts from the southwest.

A group of 200 firefighters remained in the city to prevent the flames from destroying schools, hospitals and vital infrastructure.

Their work over more than a week in extreme conditions prevented the total destruction of the city by the fire, which is still active and out of control but located far from populated areas.

Authorities, who say that roughly 10 percent of Fort McMurray was destroyed, have told the city's inhabitants that they will have to wait two weeks before returning to their homes.

"I don't think Canadians yet understand what happened here," Trudeau told firefighters after surveying the damage.

"They know there was a fire. They're beginning to hear the wonderful news that so much of the town was safe. They don't yet understand that this wasn't a fluke of wind or rain or luck, that this was the extraordinary response by people such as yourselves - the work you did to save so much of this community."

The flames have consumed more than 250,000 hectares (617,283 acres) of land.

Besides the evacuation of nearly 90,000 people in all, the fire has disrupted oil production in the tar sands region north of Fort McMurray, reducing Canada's output of crude by roughly a million barrels per day. EFE

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Source: Equities.com News (May 14, 2016 - 2:10 AM EDT)

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