A ru­ined land­scape

The Press - - Front Page -

The whole of New Zealand has watched in de­spair this week as wild fire en­gulfed the Port Hills, spew­ing smoke out across Christchurch be­low.

Part of the fear was the un­known. From Colombo St, in the cen­tral city, it was hard to see what was hap­pen­ing. It’s only from the air you get a real sense of the ex­tent of the dev­as­ta­tion.

An es­ti­mated 2000 hectares ut­terly de­stroyed. An area the size of the en­tire Pa­cific Is­land na­tion of Nauru.

The wicker-dry, hay-like grass of the hills is prime fod­der for the kind of fire that has ru­ined the land­scape. The re­main­ing veg­e­ta­tion is in sharp con­trast to the veins of de­struc­tion run­ning through it. It’s the rea­son the hills are now painted in strange yel­low and black pat­terns. It’s a ran­dom havoc that com­pletely de­stroyed some ar­eas and left oth­ers un­touched as fire crept through val­leys and up nooks, while miss­ing other ar­eas com­pletely.

Some­times a sin­gle house is mirac­u­lously spared while else­where, the fire has reached down through a nar­row cor­ri­dor, an­ni­hi­lated a prop­erty and then re­treated sud­denly, leav­ing ev­ery­thing around it un­scathed. The fire swept down a hill be­hind the sub­urb of Cash­mere yes­ter­day morn­ing, de­stroy­ing ev­ery­thing it touched, be­fore sud­denly re­treat­ing 15 min­utes later.

The view from the air re­veals a chaotic, pow­er­ful force of na­ture that has taken hun­dreds of peo­ple, thou­sands of hours and mil­lions of dol­lars to con­trol.

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