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Canada phone app for wildfire victims

Do Not UseDo Not Use 15/05/2016
Devastated neighbourhood of Abasand after being ravaged by wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, May 13, 2016 © Reuters Devastated neighbourhood of Abasand after being ravaged by wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, May 13, 2016

A smartphone app has been released by the government of the Canadian province of Alberta to let people evacuated from the fire-hit town of Fort McMurray to see satellite images of their homes.

Grey line © BBC Grey line

Alberta's municipal affairs minister, Danielle Larivee, warned that the images could be traumatic.

Devastated neighbourhood of Abasand after being ravaged by wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, May 13, 2016: Plans are being drawn up to allow residents to return © Reuters Plans are being drawn up to allow residents to return

She said the aim was to give homeowners the most accurate information possible.

More than 80,000 people were forced to flee when a devastating wildfire swept through the town two weeks ago.

The fire, which has now moved away from the city, destroyed more than 2,400 structures.

Thousands of evacuated residents continue to live in temporary shelters, with no possessions, as they wait to hear when they can go home.

Officials say a plan should be ready within two weeks to get residents back to their homes, although fire conditions could worsen in the coming days.

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Ms Larivee said she had lived through a devastating fire and evacuation herself and knew how stressful it was to have to wait for updates on which homes had been lost.

"These images will help us begin to answer the questions you have about the state of your homes and community," she said in a statement.

She warned that structures that appeared to be standing should not be considered undamaged.

"These images should not be used for official damage assessments, determining the status of individual structures, or planning re-entry to the city," she said.

On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Fort McMurray for the first time since the evacuation.

He said that despite having seen images on television, the scale of the disaster had not hit him until he had seen it for himself.

The wildfire still covers about 2,410 sq km (930 sq miles) and is expected to burn for a few more weeks.

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