World

Thousands flee raging New Zealand fires

By AAP Newswire

Some 3000 people have fled their homes in New Zealand as firefighters struggle to halt the country's largest forest fire in more than half a century.

More than 150 firefighters, 23 helicopters and two planes were on Saturday battling the 2100-hectare blaze near the South Island town of Nelson for a fifth day, with a state of emergency still in place, Fire and Emergency New Zealand said.

As the fire lurched towards the small town of Wakefield, 860 homes were evacuated by authorities, adding to about 400 people who earlier fled the Pigeon Valley, where the blaze started on Tuesday.

New Zealand has seen some significant scrub and grassland fires, but the Nelson blaze is thought to be the biggest to tear through forest land since 1955.

Though no serious injuries have been reported, one house burned down earlier in the week.

While additional crews and increased humidity are likely to help the effort, fears wind could pick up over the weekend meant the situation was "in the hands of the gods", incident controller John Sutton told media.

"Our most significant efforts are currently focused on a fire front near Wakefield which is moving slowly downslope," Fire and Emergency said.

The fire is believed to have been started at a nearby farm.

Fire crews have, meanwhile, contained several other blazes that broke out in the region during the week amid drought-like conditions.