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‘It’s terrifying’: Missing residents, scale of damage leave Lytton wildfire evacuees on edge

Click to play video: 'Lytton fire evacuees scattered throughout several B.C. communities' Lytton fire evacuees scattered throughout several B.C. communities
The Lytton wildfire spread so fast, that residents were forced to scatter in multiple different directions. Global's Robin Gill talked to evacuees, some of whom still don't know where their loved-ones are – Jul 1, 2021

Evacuees from a devastating wildfire in Lytton, B.C. are grappling with anxiety and uncertainty amid reports of catastrophic damage and unaccounted for residents.

The speed at which the fire moved into the community sent residents fleeing to a multitude of nearby communities — in some cases, separating friends and family members.

Read more: Majority of Lytton, B.C. destroyed in fire, some residents unaccounted for: officials

Starr Drynock told Global News her father Norman, a retired firefighter, stayed at the Lytton First Nation Thursday night in an effort to preserve what he could.

Click to play video: 'How to search for loved ones missing in B.C. wildfires' How to search for loved ones missing in B.C. wildfires
How to search for loved ones missing in B.C. wildfires – Jul 1, 2021

“He chose to stay and we found out he was the last one to stay on reserve and fight the fire and save as many houses as he can,” she said.

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“It’s terrifying, because I know he wouldn’t leave.”

Some mobile phone infrastructure was also knocked out in the Lytton area, leaving evacuees unable to connect with one another.

“Being without any cell service — that’s everybody’s lifeline. Nobody can contact each other,” evacuee Ted Aljam said. “We’re going into Spence’s Bridge to get some cell service and finally just get some relief, let everybody know we’re OK.”

Click to play video: 'Lytton, B.C. residents flee wildfire days after village recorded record heat' Lytton, B.C. residents flee wildfire days after village recorded record heat
Lytton, B.C. residents flee wildfire days after village recorded record heat – Jul 1, 2021

On Thursday afternoon, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said emergency reception centres had been set up in Merritt, Kelowna, Kamloops and Chilliwack, and urged evacuees to register.

He said some Lytton-area residents were still unaccounted for, and the RCMP was looking into their whereabouts.

READ MORE: ‘The core of the village has been devastated’: Lytton, B.C. wildfire leaves trail of destruction

Provincial officials are urging anyone who is unable to contact a loved one to call their local police and emergency social services centre.

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The province is also working with the Red Cross to set up an emergency toll-free number to contact.

Officials confirmed much of the community had been destroyed.

Click to play video: 'Dozens of wildfires burning across B.C.' Dozens of wildfires burning across B.C.
Dozens of wildfires burning across B.C – Jul 1, 2021

Evacuee Terry Wagner, who was staying in Merritt, told Global News he was holding out hope his home about eight kilometres outside town was still standing.

“I heard it may be burnt right now, I don’t know. Everything’s sketchy,” he said. “I can’t believe anything until I actually see it myself.”

Other evacuees are already grappling with the certainty they’ve lost everything.

“We lost all our clothing and all of our personal stuff and some irreplaceable things that came from our parents, it’s a very sad day,” evacuee David Harrison said.

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“We got a phone call from emergency alert and I didn’t believe them,” said Sharon Brown.

“I looked out the door and there was fire everywhere. And my house burned down right after my daughter picked me up.”

Farnworth said Thursday that “most homes and structures” in the village had been destroyed.

GoFundMe has created an online hub of verified fundraising campaigns for people who wish to donate to fire victims.

An estimated 1,000 people were evacuated from the village of Lytton and its surrounding areas.

As of Thursday afternoon, officials said the fire had grown to about 9,000 hectares in size.

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