IQALUIT, Nunavut — A fire has destroyed significant parts of the largest retail store in the Nunavut capital of Iqaluit.
The fire broke out late Wednesday night at the Northmart store, which is the main grocery and general retailer in the community and houses a number of shops and services.
'Shock and disbelief'
Mayor Madeleine Redfern said Thursday morning that the blaze started at the back of the building and had already destroyed the warehouse, a furniture store and a snowmobile shop.
"From what I'm seeing of the residents' reactions, everyone is in shock and disbelief ... very concerned,'' she said. "We initially hoped the fire could be put out very quickly. Everyone is just waiting to see what the final outcome will be.''
A nearby elders care home was evacuated as a precaution and Iqaluit residents were being asked to conserve water so that emergency crews would have an adequate supply for firefighting efforts.
A school across from the store was closed for the morning.
"(Northmart) is our largest general store. Quite a number of people work there, so it's a significant employer and a provider of products,'' said Redfern.
In these situations it's important that we work together for the common good.Madeleine Redfern, Iqaluit mayor
The majority of perishable food is brought into the territorial capital of 7,700 by air year-round, while non-perishable food items and hard goods come in by sea.
Other grocery retailers in Iqaluit have indicated they will be able to provide the community with enough food for now, but Redfern noted that the long-term effects of the fire will have to be assessed.
"The issue is ensuring that the other retailers are able to bring in enough supplies on an ongoing basis,'' she said. "In these situations it's important that we work together for the common good.''
The RCMP is investigating the cause of the fire.
Winnipeg-based multinational grocery and retailer North West Co. operates seven Northmart stores. The company's website says the businesses are targeted at larger northern markets, with an emphasis on an expanded selection of fresh foods, fashion, health products and services.