Evacuation angers Fort McMurray condo owners

Condo owners in Fort McMurray, Alta., who were given 10 minutes to leave their homes midnight Friday, are angry with their condo board.

Condo owners in Fort McMurray, Alta., who were given 10 minutes to abandon their homes midnight Friday, are angry with municipal officials and their condo board.

"This is unacceptable," said Maxine Osmand. "They knew of structural problems 2½ years ago and nothing has been done. And all of a sudden it's 10 minutes to get out?"

"Something just doesn't add up."

More than 300 people were evacuated from the seven-building complex after a structural engineer's report found the buildings unsafe.

The report, commissioned by the Penhorwood Condominium Association in preparation for a lawsuit against the builder, said parts of the buildings could shift and cause a break in the gas line, leading to a fire that would be difficult to control.

One of seven condo buildings evacuated Friday in Fort McMurray, Alta. ((Michael Dick/CBC News))
Osmand says she was out until midnight Friday. When she arrived home, she was barred from entering by security guards and police surrounding the buildings.

She was told a meeting was taking place across the street at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre, a meeting that went on until 3 a.m., she said.

Learned of building shift

But it was at a second meeting on Saturday morning, Osmand learned that at least one building had recently shifted.

The engineer told the Penhorwood Condominium Association in a conference call Friday he was concerned about the immediate structural integrity of the buildings, said president Allan Vinni. 

The decision to evacuate was made at 4:30 p.m. MT, Vinni said. After a series of meetings, the municipality issued an emergency evacuation at 11:30 p.m. MT.

"This is very, very frustrating the way this was done," Osmand said. "We were not alerted at all. We knew nothing."

"By the time they got the notice under everybody's door it was around midnight and that was the first the condominium owners heard that we had to be evacuated."

"I think the condominium board should taken some responsibility to let the condo owners know ... that you may be evacuated at midnight," she said.

Condo owners are now waiting for a report from the engineers about if and when they can get back into the buildings to gather personal belongings.

That report is expected to be available by 5 p.m. MT Tuesday.