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More evacuations as Port Hills fire rages

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/02/2017

Plumes of smoke are billowing over Christchurch as fires in the Port Hills prompt new evacuations.

About 15 helicopters, two planes, 120 firefighters and Defence Force staff have been working to contain two scrub fires, spread across more than 650ha, since the first broke out on Monday evening.

A shift in the wind on Wednesday afternoon prompted a fresh round of evacuations, with police clearing Worsleys Road and connecting streets.

The road has been cordoned from Cashmere Road and residents wanting access have been told to report to police.

The recently-opened Christchurch Adventure Park - which has been under threat from a blaze centred on Early Valley Road - has also been evacuated.

The fire and smoke temporarily cut power to traffic lights and 89,000 homes in north, east and central Christchurch on Wednesday afternoon.

Orion said while most of the grid had been restored, the network would remain fragile and drivers in the area were being warned to take care at intersections that were still down.

The change in wind has also sent plumes of smoke across Christchurch, with the Canterbury District Health Board saying while some could experience unpleasant eye, nose and throat irritation, healthy residents were not at risk of long-term health problems.

Those having difficulty breathing are being urged to contact their GP.

Earlier, as easterly winds helped fire crews trying to slow the fire at Governors Bay on Wednesday, 100 residents evacuated overnight in Allandale, Teddington and Ohinetahi were advised they could return to their homes at about noon.

A fire at Marley's Hill had moved through a forest and below powerlines on Wednesday, Principal Rural Fire Officer Darrin Woods said.

It reached within 150 metres of the Sign of the Kiwi - a historic shop and cafe at Dyers Pass - at one point.

One home has been destroyed in the fires and another slightly damaged, and some livestock has been killed.

On Tuesday, a helicopter fighting the fires crashed, killing the pilot.

He was named as 38-year-old David Steven Askin of Waimakariri, former SAS soldier who was wounded in a Taliban attack on a Kabul hotel in 2011 and awarded the Gallantry Star in 2014.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission and police staff were at the scene investigating the crash on Wednesday.

A total fire ban has been in place across Christchurch and Banks Peninsula since Saturday.

Police have also banned members of the public from using drones in the area until Friday.

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