Canada struggles to check raging wildfire

Blaze now threatening Fort McMurray's airport and communities well south of the town, officials say.

| Environment, Canada

A massive wildfire that forced the entire population of the western Canadian city of Fort McMurray to flee is now threatening its airport and communities well south of the town, authorities said on Wednesday.

With a few neighbourhoods already in ruins, worsening fire conditions on Wednesday pushed walls of flames toward thousands more homes in the northeastern Alberta town.

The winds also pushed flames towards the local airport, with webcam images showing black smoke engulfing the building late on Wednesday evening. Officials confirmed that a hotel north of the main terminal had caught fire.

As flames fanned south, officials also issued mandatory evacuation orders for the Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation communities located about 50km south of Fort McMurray.

Officials on the scene were forced to evacuate their makeshift emergency operations centre for the second time in the span of less than a day as the flames spread south.

Authorities said there had been no known casualties from the blaze itself, but fatalities were reported in at least one car crash among the evacuees.

Stretches of the highway had been converted into makeshift camp-grounds by people in cars, trucks and recreation vehicles who were fleeing the inferno.

Firefighting crews have been unable to stop the wildfire, which has charred 18,500 acres (7,500 hectares) since it erupted on Sunday and exploded in ferocity.

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