FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — What happens when a city of more than 80,000 shuts down and stands largely empty for a month? Lives were put on hold and households left without utilities when people fled a wildfire that burned parts of Fort McMurray a month ago. Here's a look at some of the more unpleasant things evacuees found as they returned to their city Wednesday.
A CITY SMOKED
The smell of smoke still hung in the air like a doused campfire the morning after. But this wasn't a momentary whiff. The Red Cross was handing out masks for people to use during cleanup. The province has suggested people with heart conditions, pregnant women, children under seven and seniors not return until the air quality improves.
Bachir Kourani shows mouldy dishes in his refrigerator after returning to Fort McMurray. (Photo: Codie McLachlan/CP)
When the power was cut to many homes, refrigerators and freezers shut down. Many people simply taped up their appliances and pushed them to the curb Wednesday. White and blue-green fuzz covered plastic-wrapped plates in Bachir Kourani's fridge.
It was possible to make out the shrivelled remnants of a handful of snow peas, but other than that the leftovers were unrecognizable. "For sure I have to throw out everything,'' Kourani said.
"Everything had to go."
As business owners, Dorothy Jomaa and her family were allowed back to the area early and spent the last week cleaning out their restaurant in Anzac. She said it still smelled of rotten food. One freezer was hauled out for the dump. "It was mouldy, had maggots and everything. We just threw the whole thing out,'' she said. "Everything had to go.''
Gover Bumatay cleans up his place of employment in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Wednesday. (Photo: Jason Franson/CP)
Pilar Ramirez was hit with the smell of rotting food as she arrived at the downtown house she shares with co-workers at a concrete company. But that wasn't the worst of it: "Flies everywhere,'' Ramirez said. "And big ones. I said, 'Oh my God, what happened here?'''
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