NZ asks for Australian help to fight huge Christchurch blazes

Two of the up to 15 helicopters fighting a wild fire in the Port Hills.

Two of the up to 15 helicopters fighting a wild fire in the Port Hills. Photo: AP/Mark Baker

Five pallets of firefighting foam and other fire–retardant materials are being sent from Australia to help battle a disastrous blaze in New Zealand that has seen thousands of people evacuated.

The fire has been burning in Christchurch’s Port Hills since Monday. It has destroyed 11 homes and claimed the life of a helicopter pilot fighting the blaze with monsoon buckets after his chopper crashed. He was an SAS war hero, David Askin, who had fought in Afghanistan.

One resident, James Frost, who has lost his home, had seen the last house he lived in demolished because of the earthquakes. 

Early this morning the fire service expressed hope that the situation was a lot calmer, with fire crews having a good night dampening down flare–ups. 

A New Zealand Air Force C–130 was sent to Australia on Thursday to pick up materials to help the hundreds of fire fighters battle a series of blazes that has blanketed the city all week.

The New Zealand Army and police are helping out, along with crew from the United States Coastguard Antarctic Search vessel Polar Star which is currently at the Lyttelton port.

One of the pilots helping in the effort is former All Black captain Richie McCaw.

A health warning has been issued for residents in Christchurch who may have health conditions, as smoke billows over the city.

Al Civil Defence state of emergency has been declared.

Prime Minister Bill English has been at the scene but is travelling south where he is due to meet Malcolm Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos at Queenstown.

Mr Turnbull will see the sights of the resort town from Lake Wakatipu when he enjoys a private sail aboard a luxury super yacht with wife Lucy.

During the visit both leaders will meet business leaders and lay a wreath at the Arrowtown War Memorial.

The election of Donald Trump and the US’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact are expected to hang over the pair’s sit-down.

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