30 Dec 2005

Australia helping New Caledonia over request for planes to fight bush blaze

12:51 pm on 30 December 2005

Up to three thousand hectares of bush around the New Caledonia capital, Noumea have gone up in flames over the last six days.

Ben Lowings reports.

"[Smoke has swept over the mountains surrounding Nouméa, with the fire threatening the suburbs. The fire service has been stretched, with dozens of volunteers helping, sometimes with only a bucket of water. Firefighters have consistently appealed for greater help from French troops. France wants to pay Australian companies to send aircraft to carry out water bombing operations."

Australia has offered two water-carrier aircraft to help fight the fire and the French government has ordered the despatch of 78 troops to support those dealing with the blaze.