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Fire and rain hammer New Zealand’s South Island

A wind-fanned scrub fire has raged through the southern outskirts of Christchurch, while heavy rain is causing a large surge of water in the Waimakariri River north of the city.

 
 

New Zealand rain

A wind-fanned scrub fire has raged through the southern outskirts of Christchurch, while heavy rain is causing a large surge of water in the Waimakariri River north of the city.

Police on Thursday night were warning people to stay away from the low-lying bank areas of all Canterbury rivers, after they received reports that a large surge of water was visible from the air moving down the Waimakariri River.

Despite heavy rain around most of New Zealand’s South Island this week, dry conditions and a strong northwester hampered firefighters’ efforts to contain a scrub fire around the Shands Road area in Prebbleton on Thursday afternoon.

Ten people were reportedly rescued from the area as one house was destroyed by fire and three were in flames.

Cordons were preventing residents returning to their houses, while helicopters and firefighters tried to quell the fire.

It followed “mini tornadoes” in Kaikoura in the morning, one ripping the roof off a house.

Further north, Air New Zealand cancelled nine regional flights in and out of Wellington as gales blasted the capital.

However, the MetService says the wet and blustery weather is set to turn more benign on Friday.

It had predicted gusts of up to 150km/h in some parts of Canterbury on Thursday and gusts of 140km/h in Wellington, Wairarapa and the Marlborough Sounds.

One wind gust of 230km/h was recorded at the Mt Hutt summit, while there have been gusts of about 120km/h in the Wellington suburb of Kelburn.

More than 15,000 lightning strikes had been detected in one 24-hour period between Wednesday and Thursday.

The New Zealand Transport Agency says all South Island roads closed by slips and washouts on Thursday are expected to be reopened on Friday, as contractors work to clear slips, repair washouts and clear debris.

However, in Southland, motorists are warned to take care driving on Friday morning as some rivers will peak about daybreak and this could bring flooding to roads and state highways.

 
 

 
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