New Zealand wildfires show no sign of easing, 3,000 flee

Elias Hubbard
February 12, 2019

A contingent of 22 helicopters is also fighting the country's largest forest fire since a blaze in Canterbury in 1955.

The fire covers more than 2,300 hectares (5,700 acres) with a 25km (15 mile) perimeter.

Twenty-three helicopters and two planes have been deployed to tackle the blaze.

"While I'm immensely relieved there's been no loss of life and want to thank all of those involved in tackling this vast fire, it's clear there are going to be some hard times ahead until we get the fire fully under control and people back to their homes", she said.

The regional police commander, Zane Hooper, confirmed they had successfully completed "the orderly evacuation of Wakefield", while fire chief John Sutton said the critical danger point could come on Sunday.

The fire continued to burn actively overnight and is still not in control.

"Our most significant efforts are now focused on a fire front near Wakefield which is moving slowly downslope", Fire and Emergency said.

However, he warned that the fight was not over. "So although we might be turning a corner, there will be firefighters working on that fire until well into March".

The New Zealand Red Cross communications manager Ellie van Baaren said evacuees were exhausted and frustrated.

Much of the affected area south of Nelson was used for forestry but it also has many small farms.

Fires of this size are unusual for New Zealand, with local media calling it the worst bushfire in 50 years.

Earlier in the week, 398 residents were evacuated from Pigeon Valley where the fire started on Tuesday afternoon.

Experts have warned that bushfires such as this one could become more common as New Zealand becomes drier and more drought-prone due to climate change.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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