4 Jan 2006

Wildfires in New Caledonia destroy at least 5,200 hectares

11:23 am on 4 January 2006

Wildfires in New Caledonia have been fuelled by wind and high temperatures, with at least 5-thousand 2-hundred hectares of land destroyed in the last nine days.

Firefighters have had to return to nature reserve areas of Mont Dore and Riviere Blanche in the mountains surrounding the territorial capital Noumea, to put out hotspots.

At Thio on the east coast firefighters have been dealing with a new flare up, while a fire near Bourail in the north of the Grande Terre threatened several homes.

The chief firefighter for New Caledonia, Capitaine Philippe Orcese, says his force ought to have more local resources permanently available on standby.

"We have the two choppers from the Australians, also the French air force Puma, which have been trying to control the flames. Troops have been sent from metropolitan France, you know this costs a lot and it takes time, stationing resources here would be somewhat better."