Authorities announced on Monday, that up to 50 homes were destroyed by wildfires in New Zealand, saying it was a miracle no one was injured as “a wall of orange” razed most of a remote South Island village.
The blaze which began early Sunday morning in a mountain forest and, fanned by strong winds, swept through the village of Lake Ohau, forcing inhabitants to flee for their lives.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) said the wind which was unpredictable made fighting the fire “challenging” and it had burned 4,600 hectares (18 square miles) of land by Monday afternoon.
Gary Kircher, the Waitaki District mayor said the tiny Lake Ohau community had been devastated.
“Of the 60 or 70 houses, we believe that the majority have gone,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“The reality is that it’s a minor miracle no one has been harmed. If it had been another 15-20 minutes it would have been a very different story.”
Gary narrated how residents woke to an inferno coming down on them.
“I talked to a gentleman who got up to his dog (barking) in the early hours, opened his door and there was this wall of orange,” he said.
“He was the one that set off the town fire alarm and helped to wake people… there are certainly some scary tales about how close it came to being an absolute disaster with fatalities.”
At this time of the year, Wildfires are quite common on the South Island but the scale and intensity of the Ohau fire have been uncommon.