Thousands evacuated after New Zealand wildfire | #100014

The crowd at Hope Community Church wait to hear the latest information on the Tasman district forest fire

The crowd at Hope Community Church wait to hear the latest information on the Tasman district forest fire

New Zealand Defence Force firefighters combat the Richmond fire near Nelson, South Island, New Zealand February 8, 2019. The forest fire began almost a week ago on the South Island and burned 2 300 hectares.

An entire village of more than 3,000 people was evacuated in New Zealand Saturday as a huge bushfire threatened houses, and firefighters said they were "in the hands of God".

Fire chief John Sutton said that although conditions had eased, the blaze remained unpredictable and it was too early to say it was under control.

"Our focus at the moment is moving more into the fire ground and concentrating on the moving heat and trying to widen the amount of containment all the way around the fire".

"I'm anxious about tomorrow, to be honest", Sutton said.

However, he warned that the fight was not over.

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"There's still an enormous amount of heat there and there's a lot of unburned areas", he told reporters.

"Due to the good progress we are actively working on a plan for the re-entry into the Wakefield township".

"Returning residents need to understand and accept that they need to be prepared to evacuate again if conditions change", he said.

New Zealand Red Cross Communications Manager Ellie van Baaren said evacuees were exhausted and frustrated. If you or your family and friends in the affected areas need assistance, contact Nelson Tasman Civil Defence. Some livestock has also been moved to safety.

Farmers and contractors in parts of the region have been banned from using machinery that could generate to sparks or fire. The New Zealand Drought Index reports "extremely dry" conditions in the Nelson area, which has reportedly been parched since November 2018.

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