11 homes lost in NZ bushfire


Eleven homes have now been destroyed in a raging New Zealand bushfire with strong winds fanning flames in Christchurch's Port Hills.

More than 130 firefighters, 45 tankers, 15 helicopters, and dozens of Defence Force and police staff are battling the fire which has spread over more than 2000 hectares since Monday.

More than 450 homes have been evacuated downhill of the Sign of the Takahe - affecting 1000 people - and 11 houses and two sheds have now been destroyed - up from eight on Thursday morning, according to Christchurch Civil Defence.

More people may have left of their own accord.

Civil Defence says it's too soon for residents to return home and no time frame is available.

Winds were gusting at 48km/h at Sugarloaf hill on Thursday, according to the MetService.

Significant rain isn't expected until Saturday.

"We're planning through to Sunday to really hit this thing. So it's going to be a few more days yet before we can say all the hotspots are under control," Canterbury civil defence controller John Mackie said.

Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has arrived on the ground and Prime Minister Bill English is also headed to Christchurch.

A health warning has been issued for residents in Christchurch who may have health conditions, as smoke billows over the city.

The blaze, which started as two separate fires on Monday and which sparked a local Civil Defence state of emergency, was fanned by wind change, merged into one on Wednesday night, Civil Defence says.

It earlier claimed the life of helicopter pilot Steve Askin, who crashed while battling the blaze on Tuesday.