New Zealand battles worst bushfire for 60 years

February 11 2019 by Andrew Tjaardstra

Forest fires on New Zealand’s South Island have forced around 3,000 people to leave their home near the town of Nelson.

More than 150 firefighters have been battling the blaze on the ground in the Wakefield and Pigeon Valley areas with air support from 23 helicopters and three fixed wing planes, making it the largest aerial firefight on record in New Zealand.

Accord to New Zealand Civil Defence, the Pigeon Valley fire covers 2,300 hectares with a 25km perimeter. No deaths have been reported and only one home destroyed as of Sunday.

Much of the affected area south of Nelson was used for forestry but it also has many small farms. Some livestock has also been moved to safety. The local authorities declared a state of emergency last week.

As the climate changes, the magnitude of fire risk in New Zealand could double. Recent hot, dry and windy conditions have contributed to the fire risk.

January 2019 was New Zealand’s hottest month on record. As a result, there has been a surge of power from the use of air conditioners. Train services in Wellington were shut following record high temperatures.

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Adern said in January that climate change is the greatest threat facing the world.

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