Port Hills fire: Evacuees let back into their homes amid drizzle

Author
Newstalk ZB staff, NZN,
Section
Emergency,
Publish Date
Friday, 17 February 2017, 5:30AM
Photo / Christchurch City Council

UPDATED 3.25pm Families sent fleeing from their homes by fires in Christchurch's Port Hills are being let back in as a light drizzle helps firefighters control the blaze.

Light rain overnight and during parts of the day boosted the efforts of fire crews and Civil Defence earlier said the fire - which has destroyed at least 11 homes and ripped through more than 2000 hectares of scrub and forest since Monday - was "largely contained but not yet controlled".

LISTEN ABOVE: CIVIL DEFENCE CONTROLLER JOHN MACKIE GAVE CHRIS LYNCH AN UPDATE

"The fire area is not expanding and firefighters have made great progress in putting in fire breaks around the perimeter of the fire area," Civil Defence said.

But it warned there was still a "very real" risk of flare-ups due to dry vegetation, and winds forecast expected to get up to 50 kilometres per hour throughout Friday.

The MetService is now forecasting a steady drizzle in the area for the rest of the day, with about 2.9mm expected to fall in total, along with cooler temperatures and higher humidity than on Thursday.

Light rain is expected to continue throughout Saturday.

Authorities on Friday also had good news for some of the 1000 residents evacuated from 400 homes earlier in the week.

Civil Defence announced one of the cordons around the fire-damaged area had been lifted at 1pm on Friday, allowing residents of Cashmere Road and Penruddock Rise to return to their homes.

"All other cordons remained in place while the situation was assessed," it said.

"We hope to announce the lifting of some further cordons early this afternoon."

One cordon was opened for an hour earlier in the day, causing queues and frustration among residents trying to get back in after it close again.

Civil Defence said it was waiting until the situation was under control before confirming the total extent of the damage, after the number of homes destroyed was significantly over-reported on Thursday.

The effort to clean up hotspots and the whole fire area would go on for several days, it said.

Ground crews - which ballooned to 400 firefighters on Thursday - were again backed up by 15 helicopters and three planes on Friday.

Earlier, firefighters were buoyed by a light rain.

"It's been a really good night. We had some light rain, it felt like Christmas," Fire Service southern communications shift manager Riwai Grace said on Friday morning.

"It wasn't much but still, it's a lovely feeling."

Fifteen crew from the US Coastguard icebreaker Polar Star were on Friday also helping Defence Force and police in the evacuation area.

Cashmere Primary School, Cashmere Early Learning Centre and Kidsfirst Cashmere Kindergarten were closed on Friday.

 

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