1000 people in Christchurch forced to evacuate due to fires

Music 16/02/2017

More than 1000 people have had to evacuate due to a massive blaze that has ripped through through Christchurch's Port Hills.

Evacuations are continuing on the Port Hills on Thursday morning as the fires continue to burn. A total of 450 properties have been officially evacuated, affecting an estimated 1000 people.

Police went door-knocking at the downhill area of the Sign of the Takehe as far as Kiteroa Place. Others have self-evacuated as the fire spread overnight.

The fire now spans around 1800 hectares across the hills, with latest reports that it has now spread to the harbour side of Sugarloaf.

Seven houses are believed to have been damaged by the fire since yesterday, on Early Valley Road and Worsley Road. Residents were forced to grab what they could and flee on Wednesday night.

At least eight houses have been destroyed in the past two days after being engulfed by flames, and with the fire continuing to spread, fears remain for the safety of other homes.

Jasmine Peate-Garratt was evacuated from her home– after moving in just the day before.

Speaking to The AM Show, she said it's hard to know what is going to happen, and she is overwhelmed by how big and out of control the fire is.

"It seems like it's got out of control pretty fast. It's just been constant helicopters going overhead," she said.

She was asked to evacuate her home at midday on Wednesday, and is now staying with friends.

Resident Garth Hammond told RadioLIVE when his family heard there were evacuations near where they lived, they immediately started packing - even though they weren't in the evacuation zone.

"They were evacuating the top of Kennedy's Bush Rd last night and we live down the bottom, and my wife went home from work early and packed up all our camping gear and packed up our boat and fishing gear," he said.

"We grabbed the photo albums and the hard drives, and she came and met me at work on the way home."

So many people were fleeing that their quiet, rural street "was like a main road", Mr Hammond says.

"For us it was just unreal. It was surreal. But to look back across from the city now and see it all burning, and you can see the flames and you can see flashing lights and all the rest of it... it's been three days now.

"It's quite scary. It's just another thing for the people of Christchurch, after all the earthquakes and all the stress and everything that people have been through." For Mr Hammond, the important thing is that his family and his neighbours are safe.

"The rest of it can just burn," he said. Several fires have raged since Monday, merging into one mammoth blaze overnight on Wednesday which is covering more than 1850 hectares. Helicopters are set to be brought back into the battle at first light.

While police and the Defence Force are going door-to-door to evacuate, anyone concerned should self-evacuate, police advise.