8 Dec 2003

New Caledonia braces for new season of fires

7:55 am on 8 December 2003

New Caledonia is bracing for the return of forest fires which last year destroyed close to fifty thousand hectares.

Nearly all the fires were started by people and fighting them proved difficult because of water shortages caused by El Nino.

The news agency, AFP, says this year, in preparation for the hot season, provinces in the north and south have launched fire awareness programmes.

But fire fighters are still facing inadequate resources

Of the territory's 33 districts, only 11 have firefighters, with 260 men covering thousands of hectares.

This month, more than a thousand hectares have smouldered on the Isle of Pines, which does not have any fire-fighting capacity