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Town experiences its own 'Armageddon'

Hundreds of Canadians homeless after wildfire consumes city

SLAVE LAKE, Alberta (UPI) | May 16, 2011

"It was literally like Armageddon. . . The sky was changing color every split second."

—Mouhamed Mouallem

Hundreds of Canadians fled to shelters Monday morning after their northern Alberta town was devastated in a fire one resident called "Armageddon."

Slave Lake, with 7,000 residents, lost a shopping center, high school, city hall, police station, library, radio station, apartment complexes and an undetermined number of houses in the Sunday night conflagration, The Globe and Mail reported. There were no reports of injuries.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported the town was still cut off from the south by wildfires Monday, as firefighters were flown in from all over Alberta, as well as British Columbia and Ontario. Emergency shelters were set up in Athabasca, Westlock and Edmonton.

"This is a disaster, no question about it," Sgt. Mike Proctor of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told CHQT-AM, Edmonton.

Residents were ordered to evacuate as the flames bore down on the town. Travel out of town was limited to one road, the newspaper said.

"It was literally like Armageddon," resident Mouhamed Mouallem told CHQT. "The sky was changing color every split second."

The fire also interrupted cellphone communications.

"The winds just keep fanning it hotter and hotter and hotter, and the wind's not slowing down," Mandy Jeworski, 27, told The Globe and Mail. "I'm scared for the people that are in Slave Lake right now."

Slave Lake wasn't alone in facing fire dangers. More than 1,000 firefighters were battling in excess of three dozen wildfires out of control in across the province.

Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay told CTV News people were being urged to get out of town as soon as possible.

"We are asking people who are able to travel and have the fuel to get to Athabasca, to leave the community," Pillay said. "If they do not have transportation or fuel we are asking them to come down to the Northern Lakes College and register with us."

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