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Christchurch fires forces mass evacuation

CHRISTCHURCH: Hundreds of homes have been evacuated in the New Zealand city of Christchurch as a huge wildfire rages on its outskirts. One pilot died in a helicopter crash and least 11 homes have burned down. A state of emergency has been declared in the city and neighbouring Selwyn District and the military has been deployed to help firefighters. It is unclear what caused the fire, but Prime Minister Bill English has said it “looks a bit suspicious”. He stressed that investigations were continuing. On Tuesday, a decorated army pilot was killed when his helicopter crashed as he was tackling the blaze. Cpl David Steven Askin had been awarded for his bravery while deployed in Afghanistan, for helping save the lives of guests during a hotel siege in Kabul in 2011. The Port Hills fire broke out in two separate places on Monday in the dry hills south of Christchurch, before merging into one blaze which now covers abut 1,800ha. More than 130 firefighters have been deployed, along with 14 helicopters and three aircraft brought in from across the South Island. A total of 400 homes were evacuated by police, but hundreds of other people have also chosen to leave the area.–Agencies

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