29 Dec 2005

Fire fighters still trying to control New Caledonia blaze

11:20 am on 29 December 2005

A forest fire raging in New Caledonia since last week is now threatening a major nature reserve on the territory's main island.

An operations centre has been established to coordinate the firefighting

effort, which includes water-bombing-helicopters as well as around 40 firemen

and 60 soldiers and volunteers.

But an official from the emergency services said as many as 800 personnel

would be needed to handle the blaze, which started last Friday on the outskirts

of Noumea.

No houses have so far been reported at risk but the blaze is threatening

nature areas and the environmental group WWF has warned of an "ecological

catastrophe."

The fire is currently covering an area of around 2,500 hectares.