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Hanmer Springs fire closes major highway

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/03/2017

Firefighters and helicopters have contained a blaze that closed a section of State Highway 7 in the South Island and sent residents fleeing from their homes.

About 14 trucks, seven helicopters and three bulldozers have been fighting the scrub fire near the Hanmer Springs turn-off since noon on Wednesday.

The blaze had engulfed about 60 hectares of plantations but was completely contained and "60 per cent controlled" by the evening, Hurunui District Council said.

While some residents in the area had chosen to self-evacuate, a Fire Service spokesman said there was no danger to property in the area.

About 50 homes were left without power after a pole burned down and would remain without electricity overnight while damage to the network was assessed, the council said.

Civil Defence said firefighters had been called into the area from the Port Hills, where a state of emergency was lifted on Wednesday night.

The area has been experiencing drought-like conditions.

The fire forced the closure of SH7 - The Lewis Pass Road - between Springs Junction and Culverden, but it has since reopened.

There would be controlled access, speed limits and an increased police presence through the night, the council said.

Flames have been raging on both sides of the major highway.

Earlier, drivers travelling between Picton and Christchurch were warned to expect delays, with the only alternative route - through Arthur's Pass - adding more than two hours to the journey.

Police also put up cordons at various points down the stretch of highway.

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