New Zealand wildfires show no sign of easing, 3,000 flee

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New Zealand Defence Force firefighters combat the Richmond fire near Nelson, South Island, New Zealand, February 8, 2019. (REUTERS)
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In this image made from video, helicopters drop water on a wildfire coming over a ridge near a residential area, Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, in Wakefield, New Zealand. (AP)
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Smoke rises from the Richmond fire near Nelson, South Island, New Zealand, February 8, 2019. (REUTERS)
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New Zealand Defence Force firefighters combat the Richmond fire near Nelson, South Island, New Zealand, February 8, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 February 2019

New Zealand wildfires show no sign of easing, 3,000 flee

  • Up to 3,000 people have been forced to leave the Wakefield and Pigeon Valley areas, NZ Civil Defense Controller Roger Ball told a Saturday news conference on Saturday

SYDNEY: Strong winds on Sunday are expected to fan forest fires that have been burning for a week through New Zealand’s South Island, forcing thousands of people from their homes, with more residents expected to flee, officials said.
The Pigeon Valley fire covers 2,300 ha (5,700 acres) with a 25 km (15 mile) perimeter, NZ Civil Defense said in a statement on its website.
No deaths have been reported and only one home destroyed.
“There is some concern about predicted high winds this afternoon, which are expected to test the control lines,” the agency said.
Early on Sunday, 155 firefighters were battling the blaze on the ground with air support from 23 helicopters and 3 fixed wing planes, the agency said, making it the largest aerial firefight on record in New Zealand.
Up to 3,000 people have been forced to leave the Wakefield and Pigeon Valley areas, NZ Civil Defense Controller Roger Ball told a Saturday news conference on Saturday.
More people were likely to be forced from their homes on Sunday.
New Zealand Red Cross Communications Manager Ellie van Baaren said evacuees were tired and frustrated.
“When you have to leave your home and in some cases your livestock and animals and you don’t know what’s become of them, and you’re staying with friends and family, then it’s an uncertain situation for everybody,” she told Reuters by telephone.
Much of the affected area south of Nelson was used for forestry but it also has many small farms. Some livestock has also been moved to safety.
Fires started on Monday and Tuesday and quickly spread. On Wednesday, authorities declared a state of emergency.
Hundreds of volunteer and professional firefighters, police, civil defense and military personnel are battling the fires.


Al-Qaeda claims Pakistan detained wife of its chief Zawahiri

Updated 41 min ago

Al-Qaeda claims Pakistan detained wife of its chief Zawahiri

  • Zawahiri, an Egyptian, became leader of Al-Qaeda following the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan
  • He is believed to be hiding somewhere in the region

ISLAMABAD: Al-Qaeda has accused Pakistani security forces of detaining the wife of its chief, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and two other families of the insurgent group’s “martyrs” for nearly a year.
In a statement, the leadership of Al-Qaeda on Friday alleged “treacherous Pakistani forces” captured Zawahiri’s wife and others as they left the former Taliban stronghold of Waziristan bordering Afghanistan about a year ago due to continuous airstrikes.
It said: “We ... hold Pakistan’s government and its treacherous army and their American masters responsible for their criminal acts.”
There was no immediate comment from Pakistan.
Zawahiri, an Egyptian, became leader of Al-Qaeda following the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan by US Navy SEALS. He is believed to be hiding somewhere in the region.