Thursday, 23 February, 2017

Over 1000 evacuated in New Zealand wildfire

A helicopter is seen fighting a fire in Christchurch's Port Hills A helicopter is seen fighting a fire in Christchurch's Port Hills
Theresa Hayes | 17 February, 2017, 00:57

One person is dead, 11 houses destroyed and more than 400 homes in Christchurch have been evacuated as bush fires rip through the area.

A fire-fighter was killed on Tuesday when a helicopter crashed while battling the blaze.

A state of emergency has been declared in the area and authorities have been sent in to help firefighters with the two fires.

More than 130 firefighters, 45 tankers and 15 helicopters having been tackling the blaze, which has spread over more than 2000 hectares and also claimed two sheds.

Fire crews race to hot spots on the Port Hills.

"There are about four other houses nearby and they could be in danger as well", she says.

"It looks as if up to seven properties have been affected by the fire, it's hard to say until light arrives to get a full handle on how many properties that have been destroyed". Local media attributed the first fire to an electrical fault.

Investigator Superintendent Lane Told said it was "too early to determine exact specifics of the crash". On Saturday the rain from the North Island looks like it may well push right into Canterbury, carried there by the nor'east flow hugging New Zealand's eastern coastline.

Helicopters have been battling the blaze for days.

Officials said the region had been unusually dry for three years and the grass in the hills had turned brown over the summer. Broughton said displaced residents were staying at evacuation centers or with relatives. He says he came home to see his house engulfed by flames, along with his classic vehicle collection.

Special pods are also being used to shoot high-pressure water into the ground to extinguish roots burning below the surface.

Last night firefighters used thermal-imaging technology and high-pressure hoses to manage hotspots within the fire's 30km perimeter.

Such ferocious wildfires are rare in New Zealand as regular rainfall usually prevents them reaching the intensity seen in neighboring Australia.