Rare New Zealand bushfire, burning for days, threatens town of 3,000

An estimated 700 people have already been evacuated after blaze took hold on parched countryside

A huge bushfire that has been raging in the parched New Zealand countryside for four days has forced hundreds of residents to be evacuated from their homes and prompted fears that climate change has caused the nation to become “more flammable”.

Firefighters have been working for most of the week to put out fires covering more than 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) around Nelson on the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand.

On Friday an estimated 700 people were evacuated from the town of Wakefield as fire chiefs warned that a northerly wind could force the original blaze, which began on Tuesday, back toward residential areas.

Others in the town of 3,000 have been warned to prepare to evacuate or to leave themselves. Those forced to leave their homes were asked to report to a nearby stadium if they needed emergency accommodation and instructed by local authorities to take water, food, medicines, pets and valuables with them.

Other, smaller fires were also flaring up in the region, including in the city of Nelson, which is home to about 50,000 people. Local firefighting services have deployed helicopters and trucks to fight the fire.

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