Canada evacuates by air remote indigenous community due to wildfire


Members of the Canadian Armed Forces help evacuate people due to wildfire concerns in Pikangikum First Nation, 500 km north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, May 30, 2019. Photo taken May 30, 2019. LS Dan Bard/Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s military began evacuating by airplane 1,600 “vulnerable” people from a remote indigenous community in Northern Ontario due to a wildfire and concern about the smoke, the public safety ministry said on Friday.

“We’re trying to get as many aircraft into the area as we possibly can. We’ve got to make sure those people are out of harm’s way,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

So far, three planes have flown 226 people to the city of Thunder Bay on Lake Superior, approximately 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Pikangikum First Nation, a community of 4,000 people, said Scott Bardsley, a spokesperson for Goodale.

Another 1,374 vulnerable individuals, including senior citizens and those with respiratory issues, had been identified for evacuation, he said. Pikangikum, which has declared a state of emergency because of the blaze.

Thirty rangers with the Canadian Armed Forces were on the ground to assist with the evacuation and additional military personnel were ready to assist in the efforts as needed, Bardsley said.

Wildfires are also raging in Northern Alberta where lack of rain has led to multiple blazes that have forced about 10,000 people from their homes, prompting the capital of the province to issue an air quality warning on Thursday.

Reporting by Kelsey Johnson; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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