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.


Italy has nothing to fear from ESM reform, PM Conte says

Updated 11 December 2019

Italy has nothing to fear from ESM reform, PM Conte says

  • Critics of the planned changes to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) say they would make it more likely that Italy will have to restructure its debt
  • During his speech to parliament, Conte sharply rejected criticisms by the right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte dismissed criticisms of planned reforms to the euro zone bailout fund on Wednesday, saying the proposals, which have been heavily attacked by right-wing opposition parties, posed no threat to Italy.

Critics of the planned changes to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) say they would make it more likely that Italy will have to restructure its debt, the highest in the euro area as a proportion of national output after Greece’s.

“Italy has nothing to fear ... its debt is fully sustainable, as the main international institutions, including the (EU) Commission have said,” Conte told parliament ahead of a European Council meeting this week to discuss the reform.

He repeated that Rome would not agree to any restrictions on banks holding sovereign debt.

During his speech to parliament, Conte sharply rejected criticisms by the right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties, saying they appeared aimed at undermining Italy’s membership of the single currency.

“Some of the positions that have emerged during the public debate have unveiled the ill-concealed hope of bringing our country out of the euro zone or even from the European Union,” Conte said.

The League and Brothers of Italy have attacked the planned reforms to the ESM, which they say will open the door for a forced restructuring of Italy’s public debt that would hit Italian banks and savers who invest in government bonds.

Some members of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement have made similar criticisms, adding to tensions with their partner in the ruling coalition, the center-left Democratic Party.

Lawmakers from 5 Star and the Democratic Party appeared to have smoothed over their differences on Wednesday, however, agreeing to drop demands for a veto on measures that could make it easier to reach a debt restructuring accord.

In a final resolution, they scrapped calls for a veto on so-called single limb collective action clauses (CACS), that limit the ability of individual investors to delay any restructuring agreement by holding out for better terms.

Under the new system, restructuring would go ahead after a single, aggregate vote by bondholders regarding all affected bonds while the clauses currently in place require an aggregate vote as well as an individual bond-by-bond vote.

Italy has asked to clarify that the new clauses will not rule out the so-called sub-aggregation, allowing separate votes for different groups of bond issuances to protect small investors, a government official told Reuters.