Residents return home as New Zealand wildfire threat eases

An undated handout photo made available by the Christchurch City Council Newsline on Feb 16, 2017 shows a view of the Christchurch Port Hills fire on the outskirts of Christchurch, New Zealand's South Island.
An undated handout photo made available by the Christchurch City Council Newsline on Feb 16, 2017 shows a view of the Christchurch Port Hills fire on the outskirts of Christchurch, New Zealand's South Island. PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY (Reuters) - More than 1,400 residents of New Zealand's Christchurch city returned home on Friday (Feb 17) as firefighters contained a massive wildfire that led to their evacuation, destroying properties and power networks.

The wildfire in Christchurch's Port Hills district spread rapidly over Thursday, covering more than 1,800 hectares and forcing authorities to declare a state of emergency, which remained in place on Friday.

The Civil Defence said the fire was largely contained but not yet controlled, as soft winds and light drizzle aided firefighters.

Christchurch-based electricity distribution company said around 107 of its customers remained without power.

"The fires continue to present a risk to power supply and the situation remains fragile. It is possible that there will be further outages until the fires are fully extinguished," Orion said in a statement.

Christchurch is New Zealand's third largest city.