Massive wildfire prompts evacuation
A massive Wildfire forces has prompted the evacuation of almost the entire population of Yellowknife, the capital of Canada's Northwest Territories, as the blaze threatens to reach the city of 20,000.
Thousands of residents have fled by road or air, while authorities have deployed firefighting resources to protect the city and its infrastructure.
Fire sparked by lightning
The Wildfire forces , known as the Awry Lake fire, was ignited by lightning on July 14 and has since grown to cover an area of about 1,670 square kilometers (644 square miles), equivalent to more than half the size of Rhode Island. The fire is located about 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of Yellowknife and is moving closer to the city due to dry and windy conditions.
The fire has jumped over three containment lines that were set up by firefighters and has created a thick cloud of smoke that has reduced visibility and air quality in the region. The fire has also disrupted power and communication lines and threatened several communities and facilities near Yellowknife, including a gold mine, a hydroelectric plant, and a First Nations reserve.
Evacuation order issued
On Wednesday, the territorial government issued an evacuation order for Yellowknife and the surrounding areas, citing the imminent danger posed by the fire. The order affected about 19,000 people, or more than 90% of the city's population.
About 15,000 people left by road, forming long queues of vehicles on the only highway that connects Yellowknife to the rest of Canada. The highway was partially closed due to the fire and authorities had to escort motorists through the fire zone. Some people had to abandon their cars or trailers due to mechanical problems or fuel shortages.
About 3,800 people left by air, taking emergency flights from the Yellowknife airport, which was also affected by the smoke. The flights were arranged by the government and several airlines that offered free or discounted tickets. Some people had to wait for hours at the airport or sleep on cots before they could board a plane.
Firefighting efforts continue
The territorial government said it is working with federal and local agencies and partners to combat the fire and protect Yellowknife and other communities. The government said it has deployed more than 300 firefighters, 16 helicopters, eight air tankers, and dozens of heavy equipment to fight the fire.
The government also said it has set up a network of fire guards, sprinklers, and water cannons around Yellowknife to prevent the fire from reaching the city. The government said it is monitoring the fire situation closely and will provide updates and support to the evacuees.
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