EDMONTON – The University of Alberta is no longer accepting evacuees from Fort McMurray, saying it was at capacity Tuesday evening.
Lister Centre has been housing evacuees since last Thursday.
Director of Hospitality Services Dolores March said there were about 180 people at the centre Friday morning. Later that evening, more than 1,000 people had registered to stay there.
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March said the residence can no longer accept evacuees and that Fort McMurray residents displaced by last week’s massive wildfire are being directed back to Northlands.
“We’re at maximum capacity at this particular time. We have spring, summer housing groups as well as sports groups that [have] come so we’re at full capacity,” she said.
March said there was a request from the province to keep additional space for long-term housing plans for evacuees.
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For those who are staying at the university, March said they receive three meals a day, along with programs for children and complimentary laundry.
“They’re just happy because there are a lot of family members together so they’re happy about that. They’re very thankful. They’re just very happy to be here, have a place to stay, have food,” she said.
March said the residence is housing singles as well as families and there are personal and social supports for evacuees.
Akram Bennekki went to Anzac after fleeing Fort McMurray but was forced to flee again after fire flared up there.
He arrived in Edmonton and spent two nights at a hotel until moving to the University of Alberta.
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“We didn’t know where to go. It was one of the only places that I heard that they took people so we came here,” he said.
“It’s so nice. Everybody has their own room – private room with a washroom. They clean the room too. We have three meals a day so it’s great.”
Bennekki said the future of his home in Fort McMurray may be up in the air but in the meanwhile, he is living comfortably.
“They’re treating us very well.”
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Mohammed Mescar spent 10 hours in a car getting to Edmonton. He stayed in a hotel and a friend’s place before settling into the residence hall.
“The place is good. We’ve been taken care of. It’s been great,” he said.
Mescar said he is anxious to get home to Fort McMurray but is thankful for the outpouring of support.
“We didn’t expect it was going to be like that. We were very surprised and thankful for how Edmonton, and most of Alberta [are helping]. We feel comfortable staying here for a while until we can go back to Fort McMurray.”
March said as of right now, there is no date that evacuees must leave and added the university will keep them there as long as it can.