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Island link to wildfire ‘zombie apocalypse’

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Unprecedented wildfires ravaging Canada's west have brought unease to Bermuda's Canadian community — especially those with links to Fort McMurray, Alberta, now completely evacuated.

Sarah Morgan, whose brother Nicholas Waddington is a Fire Captain in the city of more than 60,000, said her family there had likened its blackened and deserted neighbourhoods to the aftermath of a “zombie apocalypse”.

“There's mass confusion, gridlocked traffic, and people grabbing what they can and running, just trying to leave the city,” Ms Morgan, a 13-year resident of Bermuda, told The Royal Gazette.

Power has been lost, gasoline and other supplies are scarce, and in some areas stores are either burnt down or impossible to access, while 80,000 people have evacuated.

Last night Ms Morgan said her brother, a firefighter since 2003, did not know if his own residence remained standing, but had seen streets close by “going up in flames”.

Many of Mr Waddington's colleagues, who will all work non-stop until the wildfire has retreated, have lost their homes.

Fires are nothing unusual for Fort McMurray, Ms Morgan said: the northern oil town is surrounded by trees and its climate can be dry.

“It's scary to have it at this time of year,” she added. “Normally they happen in the summer, and not at this scale.”

The fire, which broke out days ago after a strangely warm and arid winter, yesterday defied effort to halt it.

Ms Morgan said she had spent a restless night texting and e-mailing friends and family back home and worrying for their safety.

“I've heard from a lot of friends who have lost homes,” she added.

As of yesterday, no deaths or injuries had been reported, but locals had stories of some close calls.

Rhonnda Oliver, a member of staff at The Royal Gazette, expressed shock at seeing places she had known during her five years there completely destroyed.

“It's never going to be the same,” Mrs Oliver said. “Both neighbourhoods I used to live in are gone by about 80 per cent. You're left kind of speechless, knowing it's just gone.”

Mrs Oliver, who has had family there since the oil rush of the 1970s, said the local Highway 63 offered only two main ways out of the city, but even that at one point had been temporarily jumped by advancing flames.

“It's been a very warm winter. It's a northerly city, so there's not a lot of snow. Everything is tinderbox dry and the forest encroaches on the city. I haven't heard what might have set off these fires, but it could be anything.”

Heather Conyers, the Honorary Canadian Consul in Bermuda, called it “quite a horrible sight to see, to say the least”.

“I can only hope that everyone gets out safe and sound,” Ms Conyers said.

Fearing for friends: Sarah Morgan with her brother, firefighter Nicholas Waddington
Causing devastation: the inferno by the highway outside Fort McMurray, Canada (Photograph by Kerri Waddington)
Homes evacuated: wildfires loom on the isolated city of Fort McMurray, Canada (Photograph by Kerri Waddington)
Neighbourhoods ruined: the view from the back yard of Nicholas and Kerri Waddington of Fort McMurray, Canada (Photograph by Kerri Waddington)

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Published May 05, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated May 05, 2016 at 11:03 am)

Island link to wildfire ‘zombie apocalypse’

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