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New Zealand: Fires In Christchurch Destroys Homes, Hundreds Evacuated

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North westerly winds are drying out Canterbury and fire hazard is extreme

One person has died and at least eight homes have been destroyed by raging bushfires burning in Christchurch, on New Zealand's south island.

The fire began in two places on Monday and authorities quickly moved to stop it from spreading.

Fire officer Douglas Marshall told "Radio New Zealand" there had not been any significant flare-ups on Thursday and that his crew would monitor the situation closely overnight.

A state of emergency has been declared in the city and neighbouring Selwyn District and the military has been deployed to help firefighters.

A fire-fighter was killed on Tuesday when a helicopter crashed while battling the blaze.

Prime Minister Bill English said crews from the US Coastguard ship Polar Star had been assisting, and offers of help from Australian firefighters were also being considered. Local media attributed the first fire to an electrical fault.

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Police are also stressing that members of the public keep away from the Port Hills and say "rubber-neckers" are causing problems for emergency services in the area. Regular rain usually keeps fires at bay, unlike their Australian neighbors.

He said the region had been unusually dry for three years and the grass in the hills had turned brown over the Southern Hemisphere summer.

Initial reports suggested up to 40 homes had been lost but the Civil Defence later revised the number down after they received a correction from police.

Smoke and ash were being blown across Christchurch. "And I just yelled 'Get out".

The recently-opened Christchurch Adventure Park remains closed, with fire affecting the top part of the park, but not having reached the village containing the cafe and rental shop area.

Such ferocious wildfires are rare in New Zealand as regular rainfall usually prevents them reaching the intensity seen in neighboring Australia.

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