Howling winds wreak havoc in Canterbury; crews battling two fires

Howling winds are wreaking havoc, tearing roofs off homes – as firefighters battle two fires in Christchurch.

Metservice has issued a strong wind warning for the Canterbury High Country, with northwest gales set to rip down the centre of the South Island but strong gusts are howling through the city.

A Fire Emergency New Zealand spokesman said crews are attending a large fire at Cass Bay.

Three helicopters are at the scene and the blaze has spread to vegetation.

Due to the fire, Governors Bay Rd has been closed on either side of Cass Bay.

Motorists are advised to avoid the area.

Firefighters are also battling a fire in Lowburn which broke out at about 1.30pm on Tuesday.

The spokesman could not provide further details such as a location or how large it is.

Metservice forecaster Mmathapelo Makgabutlane said howling winds of 80km/h have been recorded at Christchurch Airport in the last hour.

More exposed areas near Banks Peninsula saw gusts reaching 93hm/h this morning, she said.

1400 Cantabrians were without power on Tuesday due to the high winds.

An Orion spokeswoman said they have managed to restore most of the homes and just 160 are still without power.

Principal Rural Fire Officer Bruce Janes said: “Since the gusts got up earlier today, crews across the region have been chasing fires and attended multiple callouts right across the region.”

Canterbury is currently in a restricted fire season, where any open-air fire needs a permit.

However, with the strong winds expected to last for another 12 to 18 hours, Fire and Emergency asks anyone with a fire permit to hold off burning until conditions ease.

Janes said anyone who has had a recent fire to check that it is completely out.

“With winds as strong as what we are experiencing, hot ashes can easily get picked up, potentially starting a new fire. We want to reduce the risks as much as possible, that’s why it is very important to check previous burns.

“Over haul the area of the burn, pour water over it and check with the back of your hand that there is no heat.”

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