Massive bushfire in New Zealand still 'out of control'

Smoke rising from a forest fire in Mahana, near Nelson, New Zealand, on Feb 5, 2019.
Smoke rising from a forest fire in Mahana, near Nelson, New Zealand, on Feb 5, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS/PAULINE KETEL

WELLINGTON (DPA) - Firefighters were still struggling on Thursday (Feb 7) to contain a huge blaze that broke out on Tuesday afternoon and was covering 1,900ha near Nelson on New Zealand's South Island.

"We don't have total control of that area, we're just fortunate it didn't actually grow yesterday," Fire and Emergency New Zealand's John Sutton told media on Thursday morning. "But I would expect by the end of the day, we'll be able to say that we have containment," he added.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who visited the region on Thursday, said the fire was a significant one after seeing it up close.

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

So far, emergency services confirmed that one property was destroyed while more than 400 people had to evacuate 183 homes when the inferno approached.

Mr Richard Kempthorne, the mayor in the Tasman district in the north of New Zealand's South Island, said evacuations would likely remain in place for a few days.

Investigators believe that a contractor ploughing a paddock in Pigeon Valley, about 30km from Nelson, accidentally started the fire.

 

No injuries have been reported but 13 sheep had to be put down.