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Around 20,000 from Fort McMurray have applied for EI since wildfires struck

Last Updated May 10, 2016 at 4:53 pm PDT

WEDNESDAY, MAY 04, 2016 - Lac Le Biche, Alberta - Residents of Fort McMurray go through clothing donations at the Bold Centre in Lac La Biche, AB after being evacuated from fires that have taken over northern Alberta on Wednesday, May 04, 2016 . Photo by CHRIS BOLIN For Macleans Magazine

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The federal government says a number of people from Fort McMurray have applied for employment insurance, many of them losing their livelihoods in the wildfires.

Nearly 20,000 people have applied for assistance after the fires brokeout according to Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk.

The feds have promised to speed up EI claims for those impacted by the wildfires.

She adds Service Canada representatives are in evacuation centres to help those who need to apply.

Environment minister refuses to discuss possible link to climate change

The official cause of the wildfires has not yet been determined but many forestry experts and scientists say climate change has led to drier conditions and longer wildfire seasons, which are causing fires like the one in Alberta to become more intense.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna was asked about it on her way into a cabinet meeting today, but wouldn’t comment.

“We’re just focused on helping the people of Fort McMurray. Environment Canada plays a role in looking at whether an air dispersion modelling of Parks Canada is part of the operational response.”

When asked about the climate change link last week, the prime minister warned against making any political arguments out of one particular disaster.

Editors note: A previous version of the story stated a different number of people applying for EI. The story has been corrected to reflect the actual numbers.