Around 90% of buildings in the now empty Canadian city of Fort McMurray survived its massive wildfire, according to Alberta's provincial premier.
On a visit to the affected region Rachel Notley said the hospital and most schools were intact, but 2,400 out of 25,000 structures had been burnt in the city, the local economy of which is sustained by the oil sands industry.
The event is predicted to be the most costly natural disaster in Canada’s history. The fire at its height covered 1,610 sq km, until the arrival of rain and favourable winds on Monday helped win the battle for those fighting the fire.
According to early estimates, the total losses from the fire could range from C$2.9bn ($2.2bn) to C$9bn, magnitudes more than the previous highest loss totals of C$1.7bn generated separately by an ice storm in 1998 and heavy floods in 2013, according to the Bank of Montreal.
Six carriers share some 60% of all the direct written property insurance premiums in Alberta: Intact Financial Corporation; Wawanesa Mutual Group; Co-Operators General Insurance Company; TD General Insurance; Aviva Canada and Lloyd's Underwriters, according to Fitch Ratings.
The entire city of more than 88,000 people was evacuated three days ago. Nobody was killed in the fire but two people died in a car crash trying to leave the city. “It was a miracle we got the entire population out safely,” Notley told reporters this week.
The provincial government declared a state of emergency and pledged C$100m (£53m, $77m) in cash to evacuees whose homes have been gutted. The gas in Fort McMurray has been turned off and the power grid is damaged, plus the water is not drinkable.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that most home and business insurance policies cover fire damage. “If residents have to leave their homes because of a mandatory evacuation order issued by civil authorities, most home and tenant’s insurance policies will provide coverage for reasonable additional living expenses for a specified period of time,” it said on its website.
Fort McMurray, the largest community in the Alberta regional municipality of Wood Buffalo, is 435 km (270 miles) northeast of Edmonton at the confluence of the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers. A boomtown at the centre of one of Canada's oil production hubs, it’s an isolated community surrounded by forest in the middle of the Athabasca oil sands.
Alberta province has experienced an above-average number of wildfires recently. In 2015, there were 1,786 wildfires, according to government figures, the third-highest number in the past 25 years. The 2016 wildfire season began a month early on March 1, after low levels of snow and rain were recorded.
A note from catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide anticipated that losses arising from this fire will far exceed those arising from the Slave Lake wildfire in 2011 that destroyed 522 homes and structures because house prices in the oil boom city are much higher. The Slave Lake wildfire cost insurers C$700m ($544m).