Canadian authorities say wildfire damage to Fort McMurray is less extensive than feared

The Alberta Premier said there will still be "really heartbreaking images for some people to see" when they return to the city

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Destroyed property in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Image: Rachel La Corte / AP/Press Association Images

Authorities have revealed most of Fort McMurray remains intact despite a week of damage caused by wildfires devastating Canada's oil sands region.

Thousands of homes were burnt to the ground, but authorities say the damage is far less extensive than first feared.

Officials have toured the town for the first time following the evacuation of 88,000 people.

They discovered blocks of residential properties that have been reduced to blackened ruins.

But despite the damage, officials say that the battle to contain the wildfires may have reached a turning point.

Drizzle has started to fall in some areas and favourable winds have turned the fires' advance away from the city.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said some 2,400 structures in Fort McMurray were burnt, but added that officials were encouraged by how much of the town escaped destruction.

It is estimated almost 90% of the buildings were saved. The wildfires have burnt around 204,000 hectares of land in Alberta.

Ms Notley said: "We were really encouraged ... to see the extent of residential communities that were saved.

"That of course doesn't mean there aren't going to be some really heartbreaking images for some people to see when they come back."

"First responders and repair crews have weeks of work ahead of them to make the city safe for the people of Fort McMurray and the surrounding communities.

"But it is going to be made safe. It is a home you will return to. And we are going to work together to get this job done."

Ms Notley added that it is still not safe for residents to enter the city without an escort.

Many parts of the town are still smouldering and large areas remain without power, water and gas.

All schools except one that had been under construction were intact.

Insurance experts earlier lowered their estimates of the cost of damage from the blaze, which began on 1 May.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed a multi-year commitment by the national government to rebuild Fort McMurray.

"We will support and invest in rebuilding Fort McMurray in a broad range of ways in the coming days, weeks, months and yes, years," he said.