Published: Sat, February 18, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

New Zealand declares state of emergency over wildfires

New Zealand declares state of emergency over wildfires

At least 11 homes have been destroyed in the Port Hills blaze, which started as two fires on Monday night and forced the evacuation of around 450 homes - sending more than 1000 people to alternative accommodation.

Helicopters and planes, which were helping to tackle the blaze, have been stood down for the night, but fire crews on the ground continue their efforts to bring the inferno under control.

He said they plan to let the fire burn itself out, aided by expected rainfall over the weekend.

Christchurch City Council said more than 1,800 hectares of land had been torched in the Port Hills, an area of rugged terrain hard to access to the east of the city centre.

Over 300 residents gather at the Port Hills fire public meeting.

They are also concerned about the southern flank of the fire which has terrain and vegetation that can cause the fire to spread.

A state of emergency has been declared in Christchurch and the neighbouring area of Selwyn.

"Police and New Zealand Defence personnel are now evacuating homes in the Kennedys Bush, Cashmere and Hoon Hay Valley roads as well as homes from the Sign of the Takahe to Victoria Park", a Christchurch Civil Defence spokesperson said.

Smoke and ash were being blown across Christchurch.

"They need to look after one another, and make sure they have a place to go", he said.

Phil Claude told Radio New Zealand he and his family ran down a grass track to escape the fire, which destroyed their home.

Paul Askin, the man's father, said: "H just enjoyed life to the full, he said life is far too short and you've got to live it and he did".

A new mountain bike park, the Christchurch Adventure Park, was threatened by the fire.

Fifteen helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and more than 200 firefighters were deployed to battle the blaze, which was described by one official as the largest scale fire he had seen in New Zealand.

Helicopter pilot Alan Beck said Thursday had been a huge turnaround from the previous day.

Askin serviced with distinction in Afghanistan being awarded the New Zealand Gallantry Star for bravery when fighting the Taliban.

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