85 Nunavut medical travellers, escorts evacuated from Yellowknife
As wildfires threaten N.W.T. capital, Canadian North flights starting Friday will be cancelled so planes can assist territory’s evacuation effort
As wildfires continue to threaten Yellowknife, 85 medical travellers from Nunavut and their escorts have been airlifted from that city to safety in Edmonton, the Government of Nunavut has announced.
All Nunavummiut under the government’s care — including those on medical or duty travel, or who are under the responsibility of the Justice or Family Services departments — have either left Yellowknife or are booked to leave by noon Friday, the GN said in a news release Thursday afternoon.
The GN was able to fly the medical travellers and their escorts to Edmonton late Wednesday using a Canadian North charter flight. They spent the night there at Larga Kitikmeot, in nearby Leduc, Alta.
That came as an evacuation order was issued for Yellowknife due to the surrounding wildfires, which the government has said could reach the city’s outskirts by this weekend, threatening the city of 20,000.
For all other Nunavummiut who are stuck in the Northwest Territories, the GN referred to the Government of Northwest Territories website on how to evacuate.
“Our hearts are heavy in Nunavut today as we look to our neighbours in the Northwest Territories,” said Premier P.J. Akeeagok, adding the “tragedy is deeply felt” in Nunavut.
The Northwest Territories government said Thursday there were 236 wildfires burning there. News agencies report that so far this year, 268 fires have damaged approximately 21,000 square kilometres of land.
In a release Thursday, Canadian North said it will cancel its scheduled commercial flights to and from Yellowknife, starting Friday, so it can reassign the planes to the Northwest Territories government to use in its evacuation efforts.
Canadian North reiterated that anyone booked on a flight that will be cancelled needs to join the evacuation process.
The airline said pets will be allowed on Canadian North planes that are used for the evacuation. Anyone who forgot or misplaced their identification documents during the emergency will be able to fly out of Yellowknife without producing them.
Also Thursday, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. announced it will provide $1,000 to Nunavut Inuit households in the Northwest Territories affected by the evacuation orders, to help with their immediate needs .
This includes families in Yellowknife, Ndilo, Dettah, Enterprise, Fort Smith, Hay River, Jean Marie River, and Behchoko.
Nunavut MP Lori Idlout called for the federal government to take all steps necessary to help Northern communities affected by the climate crisis and extreme weather events.
“As residents in Yellowknife and the surrounding communities proceed with an unprecedented evacuation, the federal government must provide all the necessary assistance to help people,” she stated.
Idlout noted that many Indigenous people in Yellowknife are homeless, “and they must not fall through the cracks during this time of crisis.”
With Yellowknife now off limits for medical care, the GN said Thursday that patients in urgent need will be prioritized and medevacs from Kitikmeot will now go to Edmonton.
Anyone with questions regarding medical travel with appointments scheduled in Yellowknife can contact Kitikmeot Medical Travel toll-free at 1-844-886-8010 or after hours at 983-4506 and 983-5196.
Meanwhile, a GN interdepartmental committee is being established to assess the impact of the Northwest Territories wildfires’ disruption of transportation and supplies to Nunavut.