Toronto, February 11: New Zealand is seeing a spate of wildfires across its South Island which has forced thousands of residents to flee their homes. The Pigeon Valley and Nelson Fires which are burning across six thousand acres of land near the city of Nelson are expected to burn stronger due to windy conditions.
NZ Civil Defence said on its website that wind conditions were not favourable to fighting the massive spread of fire, “There is some concern about predicted high winds this afternoon, which are expected to test the control lines,” the agency said.
A state of emergency has been declared and about 3,000 people have fled their homes in the district of Tasman. The New Zealand government has deployed more than 150 fire fighters to fight the bush fires and these efforts are being supplemented with aerial support from 23 helicopters as well as three transport planes who are working in tandem to control the fire’s limits.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she hoped "the weather plays ball". The blaze ravaging Nelson is being called the worst bush fire in New Zealand since at least 1955.
Nelson MP Nick Smith said the fire’s range puts almost 70,000 residents of the area at risk. Read: Australia Floods 2019: Crocodiles and Snakes Enter Residential Areas in Queensland As Floodgates Opened
The bush fires in Nelson have erupted due to extremely dry conditions which have reached the point of being declared a drought zone as the country in the southern hemisphere experiences its summer. Extremely dry and hot conditions increase the risk of forest fires in the hilly areas of New Zealand which are covered in pine trees.
Here's the evolution of long term dryness from the New Zealand Drought Index since New Year's.
There is now extreme dryness in the Nelson & Tasman regions, which has allowed for 'fuel' (dry vegetation) for the #Nelson area fire.
— NIWA Weather (@NiwaWeather) February 5, 2019
The extremity of this summer is being attributed to global warming even as the Tasman region saw a huge chunk of the Tasman glacier break off over the weekend. The ice break-off created a tidal surge of more than six feet high in the corresponding lake which has formed over the past forty years. The ice calving is also being attributed to the global increase in temperatures.