World

NZ wildfire razes 11 homes, as firefighters battle inferno

WELLINGTON A wildfire destroyed at least 11 homes and forced residents to evacuate in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, authorities said yesterday.

Civil defence officials declared a state of emergency late on Wednesday as two blazes that had been smouldering for days merged into a single giant firefront.

The city council said more than 1,800ha of land had been torched on Christchurch's Port Hills and about 1,000 people have been evacuated.

With winds forecast to pick up and fan the flames, authorities warned residents to flee at the first sign of danger.

Prime Minister Bill English said yesterday the fires may have been deliberately lit.

There has been one casualty so far - the pilot of a helicopter dumping water on the flames was killed after it crashed on Tuesday. - AFP

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