11 Jan 2006

All bushfires in New Caledonia under control

3:48 pm on 11 January 2006

The French High Commission in New Caledonia says all the bushfires in the territory have now been brought under control thanks to the intervention of external reinforcements and local firefighters.

One site still of concern is at Pic de Buse in the Mont Dore district in the suburbs of the capital Noumea.

Several fires around Noumea and in the interior of the main island are under surveillance because of hotspots still not dampened down after significant rains on Monday.

Two water-bombing helicopters, freighted from Australia, helped local aircraft to fight the fires.

A little more than half of the 76 members of a civil defence unit sent from France at the start of the month, will stay until the 20th of January.

The territory has experienced a series of fierce fires in recent weeks, which have been difficult to control because of heat and strong winds.

Several thousand hectares of bush have been burnt, with some describing this as an ecological catastrophe.

Police documents on about thirty suspected arsonists have been sent to prosecutors.