March 20, 2018

Hundreds evacuated as New Zealand wildfires spread

17 February 2017, 04:56 | Taylor George

North westerly winds are drying out Canterbury and fire hazard is extreme

North westerly winds are drying out Canterbury and fire hazard is extreme

Hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate their homes in the New Zealand city of Christchurch as a wildfire spreads. The blaze started as two separate fires on Monday and was fanned by a wind change and merged into one blaze by Wednesday night.

According to Mackie, the plan was to let it burn itself out, and that a forecast of rain over the weekend would help.

A helicopter pilot died on Tuesday after crashing while tackling the blaze.

Up to 15 helicopters helped battle the flames by dumping water from above.

He died at the scene of the crash.

"There's a whole lot of people here who have been traumatized by the events, some who have lost their homes, many have been evacuated", Prime Minister Bill English announced after an emergency visit to the disaster zone.

The New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union, representing all career front line firefighters can reveal that Christchurch Fire Service Crews (career firefighters) were stood down and told to return to Stations while the catastrophic Christchurch fires continue to burn - said Derek Best, Secretary of the Union.

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Fires of this intensity are rare for New Zealand.

Local Mayor Sam Broughton said changing winds had made the fire unpredictable, especially so as the region had been unusually dry for past three years. "And we had to go and tell our kids", she said.

"I could see that the smoke and the flames were being blown right up toward our house", he said.

The Civil Defence initially reported that 40 homes had been destroyed but later revised that number down to two or three.

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".

By nightfall, fire crews were battling a second blaze on Marley's Hill, south of the city.

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