29 Dec 2004

Bushfires strike again in New Caledonia, threatening Noumea

4:49 am on 29 December 2004

More than one thousand hectares of forest and scrub around the suburbs of Noumea has gone up in flames in the latest bush fires to strike New Caledonia.

Tahiti Presse reports that this time there were two fronts around Noumea, threatening the Dumbea and Paita areas where there are about a dozen communities.

Two helicopters fought the blazes by continually dumping large buckets of water on the flames while 250 firefighters and a dozen fire appliances were pressed into action.

Police believe the fire was caused by negligence by a local farmer.

Tens of thousands of hectares in New Caledonia have been devastated by bushfires since October.

A team of experts from France was in the territory to assess the situation and have said the fire-fighters are understaffed, not co-ordinated enough, and prevention and awareness amongst the public, is insufficient.