Edmonton

Fort McMurray evacuees line up outside Butterdome for debit cards

Thousands of evacuees from Fort McMurray are waiting in line outside Edmonton's Butterdome to receive the government-issued emergency relief debit cards.

Some have turned around after seeing the crowds

Albertans impacted by the Fort McMurray wildfires can now receive pre-loaded debit cards from the provincial government. (Numbers have been blurred to protect privacy). (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Thousands of evacuees from Fort McMurray lined up outside Edmonton's Butterdome on Wednesday to receive government-issued emergency relief debit cards.

The province and the Red Cross announced earlier in the day that electronic transfers and pre-loaded debit cards would be given to those impacted by the wildfire. 

The Red Cross will provide emergency funds of $600 per adult and $300 per child. The province is handing out pre-loaded debit cards with $1,250 for adults and $500 for children.

The debit cards were made available at 2 p.m. at the University of Alberta's Butterdome.

Hundreds of people were already lined up by then, and it didn't take long for that number to stretch into the thousands, 

Some later began to turn away because of the crowds.

Alex Hachem arrived early in the hopes of being one of the first to receive the debit cards.

"We figured we'd get [it] early, but walking in there now ... unbelievable," he said.

He opted to leave the line and come back tomorrow without his kids.

"I'm going to come down here tomorrow on my own," Hachem said. "There's no way that kids are going to sit for four, five hours in this lineup. It's going to be a gong show."

Fort McMurray resident Alex Hacham stood in line briefly at the Butterdome today with his children in the hopes of receiving a government-issued debit card. He opted to come back on Thursday. (CBC)

He said he's thankful for the support. 

"Not being at home, it's tough. When you're at home, it's easy, cooking and cleaning and buying food from the grocery store. We don't have a kitchenette where we're staying, so it's getting kind of expensive."

Mike Mahoney and Lorna Magwelang decided to brave the lineup.

"We really need it, we left with nothing," Mahoney said. "We took the clothes on our back and that's it."

Crowds stretch through the Butterdome as Fort McMurray evacuees wait for government-issued debit cards. (CBC)

As she stood in line with her two-month-old son, Sydney Dupuis said she's had a stressful time trying to wrangle enough money to cover the cost of diapers and formula. She's staying with her aunt, but still needs money to cover food.

"I'm on maternity leave, so I wasn't getting very much money to begin with," Dupuis said. "This will help a lot. It's been a long week."

Across the city at the Northlands evacuation centre, people began lining up at 6 a.m. — only to learn they were in the wrong place to receive debit cards. 

With files from the CBC's Travis McEwan

now