(UPDATE: On Thursday, the province announced a second distribution centre for cash cards at NAIT in Edmonton, which would be open from 2 p.m.- 8 p.m.)
EDMONTON – Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees started lining up outside for pre-loaded debit cards as early as five hours before the doors opened at the University of Alberta’s Butterdome in Edmonton Thursday morning.
By 8:30 a.m. MT, the line up stretched on for blocks, with over 1,000 people waiting for cards.
There were about 100 tables set up inside the Butterdome, with people trying to make the process go as quickly as possible.
The Butterdome location was scheduled to remain open until 8 p.m. Thursday.
Meanwhile, evacuees in Calgary waited outside Mcmahon Stadium and BMO Centre in the rain and snow Thursday for their cards.
Watch below: Fort McMurray fire evacuees in Calgary stood in rain and then snow while waiting to receive their government issued debit cards on Thursday morning. Doug Vaessen has details from outside the Red and White club.
This was the scene in Lac La Biche as evacuees lined up for cards. Officials at the Bold Centre said only five people slept on cats there Wednesday night – down from 233 Tuesday night. Officials said most people have been moved into accommodations either in Lac La Biche, St Paul and Bonnyville.
Premier Rachel Notley announced Wednesday morning those needing immediate emergency funds could get the debit cards at locations in Edmonton, Calgary and Lac La Biche.
Less than two hours after the province made the announcement, massive line ups formed outside distribution centres.
By 1 p.m. Wednesday, a long line had appeared outside the Butterdome, and continued to grow by the minute.
Watch below: There’s finally some relief for the thousands of people who had to flee the Fort McMurray wildfire. As Vassy Kapelos explains, it’s the first step in what will be a long road to recovery.
By 5:45 p.m., the distribution centre at the Bold Centre in Lac La Biche – which was supposed to stay open until 8 p.m. Wednesday – had processed as many people as it could. Officials told evacuees waiting at the back of the line they won’t make it through, but they were still handing out cash cards to the people inside the building.
There were 10 distribution centres announced Wednesday, with more to be added in the coming days, the premier said. There, evacuees can pick up $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent.
Notley asked that those who didn’t need the funds immediately to wait to pick up their debit cards.
“Our aim is to get help to the evacuees who need it the most as quickly as possible,” she said.
Evacuees in Edmonton said the support is much appreciated.
“It is good help for us,” said Sujeewa Pjlagala, who has lived in Fort McMurray with his young family for the last nine years after moving there from Sri Lanka.
He said the support from Alberta and Edmonton has been overwhelming.
“They have been providing food for us since we came. It is great help for us,” Pjlagala said.
“I have three kids. My girl’s first birthday was yesterday, but we’re homeless, basically, but still I think positive.”
His family hopes to one day return to Fort McMurray.
“I hope we can build our place like it was. And my kids will grow up in the same place.”
Watch below: On Wednesday, the Alberta government began to distribute money aimed at providing financial relief for Fort McMurray residents displaced by a massive wildfire. Tom Vernon reports.
Maranda Bos, her husband and son are staying with family after being forced out of Fort McMurray. She’s lost her home and her job but is trying to stay positive.
“You’ve just got to put your best foot forward,” Bos said. “I have friends who have lost their home too. We’re all kind of supporting each other and just getting through this. That’s all you can do.”
She lives in the Wood Buffalo neighbourhood and they just bought their home there two years ago. The provincial and Red Cross support is reassuring.
“We have pretty good insurance so our insurance has stepped us and given us some money, but every little bit helps when you’re rebuilding.”
Other people arrived Wednesday, saw the line, and decided not to wait it out.
Others were determined to wait hours if need be. Michele Gosselin said she would wait as long as it takes.
“We will wait with passion,” she said.
Watch below: When a massive wildfire ripped through their community, many Fort McMurray residents fled their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs. On Wednesday, the province began handing out debit cards aimed at giving evacuees some much needed emergency cash. Julia Wong has more.
One couple was planning to wait in line but said they’d let families and those with kids go first.
Global News was told it should take between five and 15 minutes for evacuees to be processed for the cash cards.
In Calgary, there were huge lineups at McMahon Stadium. In Lac La Biche, people waited in lines outside the Bold Centre.
WATCH: Hundreds of evacuees line up at McMahon Stadium to pick up emergency funding relief cards from the province
The Red Cross also announced it would provide immediate funds to those forced out by the wildfire. So far, $67 million has been donated to the Red Cross for wildfire relief efforts. The organization said each adult would receive $600 and each child would receive $300.
People who have given the Red Cross an email address will receive the funds through e-transfer in the next 24 to 48 hours. The Red Cross said if you didn’t provide an email, they will reach out to you.