2 Jan 2006

Australian and French teams help to tackle fires in New Caledonia

10:13 am on 2 January 2006

French and Australian teams have come to the aid of New

Caledonia's firefighters to help battles flames that have now destroyed at least 4,500 hectares of tropical rainforest.

The environmental group, WWF, has spoken of fears of an ecological disaster.

An 82-strong French fire team has now arrived in Noumea, the capital of the French territory, along with 3.5 tonnes of equipment

The news agency, AFP, says two Australian water-bombing helicopters were already helping to douse the flames.

Officials said the fires were starting to be brought under control but that strong winds were continuing to hamper efforts.