Tue, Feb 12, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Evacuees from New Zealand wildfire can return to homes

AP, WELLINGTON

Firefighters combat a wildfire near Nelson in South Island, New Zealand, on Friday.

Photo: AFP

About 3,000 people who fled as a wildfire threatened a New Zealand town were allowed to return home yesterday as firefighting conditions improved.

Another 400 residents living in valleys near the fire were not yet able to return, although officials hoped they soon could.

Firefighters said that they gained the upper hand over the blaze thanks to favorable weather conditions.

The forest fire began nearly a week ago on South Island and has burned 2,300 hectares. It burned down one house, prompting evacuations to begin on Friday.

“It’s a large fire, and the fact that we’re able to get residents back into Wakefield this afternoon is extremely positive news,” New Zealand Minister of Civil Defence Kris Faafoi said.

Residents who return need to be prepared to evacuate again if conditions change, he said, but added that he was hopeful that valley residents would also be able to return home soon.

“The feedback that we’ve had from those who were at the frontline of this fire was that there was a real intensity to this fire,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arder said.

About 190 firefighters, 10 helicopters and two airplanes were deployed to battle the fire.

No significant rainfall is forecast in the area over the next two weeks and authorities said that they expect hotspots would need to be kept damp until March.

The fire is believed to have been started by sparking farm equipment, they said.

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