Evacuees from Fort McMurray report problems with Red Cross support

Some evacuees from Fort McMurray say they are struggling to access supplies and accommodation after leaving their homes and traveling to Edmonton.

Madison Jones says she left Fort McMurray on Tuesday after four neighborhoods in the city’s south were ordered to be evacuated.

After driving to Edmonton, she contacted the Red Cross to try to find a place to stay.

“They gave us a hotel on the west side. But by the time we got there, they had said all the Red Cross reservations had been canceled. Something was wrong in their system,” Jones told CTV News Edmonton Thursday morning.

“I just started crying. It’s just overwhelming. And I have cats, too. And they’ve just been riding around in my car, just trying to figure out what we’re going to do where we’re going.”

Jones said she paid for a hotel room out of her own pocket on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

She went to the evacuation center in Clareview early Thursday morning to contact the Red Cross.

‘They have arranged accommodation for us. So I’m going there today. And hopefully it’s a different experience.”

Chelsea Wood and her family arrived in Edmonton Tuesday evening after being unable to find accommodations further north.

“We tried to go to Athabasca, but on our drive here everyone was full. All the hotels were full. No one accepted pets. We didn’t know what to do, so we came to Edmonton.”

Wood says she was staying at a hotel Tuesday night with her three children and her uncle, for whom she is a caregiver.

Her parents stayed in another room.

She went to the evacuation center in Clareview on Wednesday morning in the hope of getting some crucial supplies.

After waiting in line for hours to register and wait to meet with the Red Cross, she left without the items she needed.

“I was told they don’t have any resources available,” she said.

“They had supply trucks, but nothing came in. They only had a limited amount of diapers and some socks came out when I was halfway through. They had no water.”

Wood says she ended up spending $800 on items at a local store for her family.

“Food, cereal, milk, the basics, a few toys for my son, socks because we forgot socks, shampoo, all the little necessities. It adds up very quickly.”

One of Chelsea Wood’s children is playing in a motel room in Edmonton. (Nav Sangha/CTV News Edmonton)

She says her family also spent $290 on two hotel rooms for two nights and $110 on gas to drive to Edmonton.

“Before I left, I paid for childcare and groceries, and when we left I didn’t have much,” she says.

“A few family members and friends were able to help me with some money. So that was helpful.”

CTV News Edmonton contacted the Red Cross on behalf of Jones and Wood but did not receive a response.

“For privacy reasons, we cannot provide information about the people we help,” spokesman Jason Small said in an email Thursday afternoon. “We would encourage people who have concerns or questions to contact the Red Cross using the information provided when registering for accommodations.”

Wood says she plans to take advantage of the free admission offered by some Edmonton facilities, such as Telus World of Science, to entertain her family.

‘Tomorrow we go to Telus World of Science. We’re just trying to figure things out so we’re not cramped in the motel.”

The City of Edmonton is also offering evacuees free admission to all of the city’s recreation centres, as well as the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the John Janzen Nature Centre, the Muttart Conservatory and the John Walter Museum.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Nav Sangha and Nicole Lampa