New Zealand wildfire forces evacuation in Christchurch city

An out-of-control wildfire is threatening the New Zealand city of Christchurch Wednesday, forcing thousands of residents to leave their homes.

The mayors of Christchurch City and the neighbouring Selwyn District, on the country’s South Island, have declared states of emergency in relation to the Port Hills fires.

“Christchurch needs a multi-agency response given the seriousness of the situation,’’ Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said in a statement.

We need to be able to draw on all the resources possible to give our residents confidence in the ongoing response.’’

The blaze is no longer just a “significant rural fire on the boundary of the city,’’ but a “city issue,’’ with suburbs being evacuated, Dalziel said.

On Tuesday, one of 15 helicopters fighting the fire crashed, killing its pilot.

It added that the fire which is now visible from space, has burned more than 700 hectares of scrub and vegetation and destroyed several buildings since it started Monday.

The New Zealand Defence Force has been called in to help fight the fires, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said Wednesday in a statement.

The military would provide extra manpower including firefighters, as well as engineering equipment, water tankers and fire breaks, Brownlee said.