Fires in Canada: Quebec also affected and forced to evacuate 11,000 people

Sylvie Claire / June 5, 2023

Fires are spreading rapidly in eastern Canada, where Quebec is also plagued by more than a hundred fires, forcing the evacuation of more than 11,000 residents on Friday.


"This is a frightening time for many people from coast to coast," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.


The country is facing one of the most catastrophic springs on the fire front, with almost every province affected by gigantic fires that have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate in recent weeks.


After the west of the country and the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan at the beginning of May, it's now the turn of the east, with Nova Scotia and Quebec, to be hit by huge fires due to hot, dry weather.


In total, more than 2.7 million hectares have already burned in 2023 in the country, eight times more than the average over the last 30 years, according to Canadian authorities. And there are currently 214 active fires across the country, 93 of which are out of control.


In Quebec, the authorities had asked the population to stay out of the forest in order to limit the risk of accidental fires - most of which are of human origin (cigarette butts or poorly extinguished campfires).


But that wasn't enough, and the province was confronted with numerous fire starts in the space of a few hours, particularly in regions close to the St. Lawrence River, while others advanced strongly during the night of Thursday to Friday.


Late Friday afternoon, the province announced that it would call on the Canadian army to help transport emergency equipment, food and fuel.


"The situation is evolving rapidly in Quebec," explained Quebec MP Stéphane Lauzon.


About 10,000 people are being evacuated as a precaution in Sept-Îles, and about 1,000 in Chapais," said François Bonnardel, Minister of Public Safety, on Friday.


Hundreds of firefighters were called in from the USA, Mexico, South Africa and Portugal.


Authorities are hoping that the rain and cooler weather forecast for the weekend, after a record heatwave, will bring some relief.


Weather conditions have favored fires all week, not firefighters. We hope that will change soon," said Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston on Friday.


Unaccustomed to gigantic wildfires as Western Canada is, the small province on Canada's Atlantic seaboard is this year facing the biggest fires on record.


In the evacuated suburbs of Halifax, many houses and buildings were destroyed, leaving residents in shock.


"The house is gone. The shed is gone. Everything's gone. On our property, there's nothing left," resident Jason Young told reporters.


In recent years, Canada, whose geographical location means it is warming faster than the rest of the planet, has had to contend with extreme weather events, the intensity and frequency of which have been increased by climate change.

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