OTTAWA ― Another town in Canada’s Northwest Territories was forced to evacuate today as strong winds and rising temperatures gave new life to vast wildfires.
The threat to Hay River, a town of about 4,000, was so great that even firefighters and essential workers were ordered to leave, authorities said.
The territorial government ordered everyone still in the town to travel to the local airport and await instructions.
“Anyone who remains in Hay River is doing so at their own risk,” a government statement said. “There will be no emergency services or response available.”
At this point, some two-thirds of the entire population of the Northwest Territories ― a vast but lightly populated area — has been evacuated to neighboring provinces, sometimes 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away.
“Extreme southwest winds have pushed the fire closer to town along the highway, forcing crews and aircraft to pull back and regroup at a safe distance,” said Shane Thompson, the region’s environmental minister, calling the situation “very serious.”
Fire crews are fighting a wall of flames several kilometers long, the authorities said.
Canada is suffering through its worst forest fire season in recorded history, with much of the country hit by high temperatures and serious drought.
A total area of 15 million hectares has now burned, an area larger than Greece. That is more than double the previous record, and the 2023 wildfire season is not yet over.
In all, 200,000 people have been evacuated, and fires have claimed four lives.
Experts say global warming has aggravated the conditions that favour wildfires. ― AFP