After the worst flooding in the region’s history, residents of Fort McMurray, Alta., now must deal with the sad, inevitable fallout from any natural disaster: the scourge of looters and vandals.
The northern Alberta region has been inundated by rainfall in recent days, pushing the Hangingstone River to unprecedented heights, cutting into river banks and threatening neighbouring communities.
Mandatory evacuations began on Tuesday and already more than 150 homes have been abandoned, with police and fire officials warning further evacuations are possible.
Environment Canada is warning that the region should expect heavy rain through Friday morning, with as much as 100 mm of rainfall estimated by Saturday evening.
While many community members likely fear abandoning their home, police say it is a matter of safety. The fact that empty homes are an attractive target for looters likely one adds to the concern.
A specialized unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has established a presence in the northern Alberta city, forming roadblocks to deter those looking to loot areas being evacuated amid the flooding.
"People are devastated by what's happening and we're trying to be that sympathetic understanding that ... we know where you're coming from, you want to be in your home," Sgt. Rob Marsollier told CBC News. "However, of course, safety is paramount with us, making sure everybody is in and out as quick as possible."
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Yahoo! Canada's science expert Scott Sutherland reported on Wednesday that the floodwater threatened to overflow into the region's tailing ponds, where millions of liters of polluted waters are stored after being extracted from the nearby oil sands.
The worst might be behind Fort McMurray and neighbouring communities, but they are not out of the woods yet. And cleaning up after natural catastrophes is a massive undertaking on its own.
With luck, the scourge of looters and vandals will be minimal and the community can return to a state of normalcy without delay.