Hanmer Springs is a small town about 2 hours north west of Christchurch. Yesterday, a fire started there around midday and spread to State Highway 7.
This is a very important highway now because the coastal road from Picton to Christchurch was closed after the Kaikoura earthquake. The ferry from Wellington to Picton carries a lot of cars and trucks. The trip from Picton to Christchurch used to take about 5 hours by car through Kaikoura. Now it takes about 8 hours. Drivers have to take an inland road which goes through Springs Junction on State Highway 7 then Culverden in North Canterbury. Because of the fire at Hanmer Springs yesterday, traffic was stopped for 8 hours at Springs Junction at one end, and Culverden at the other end. One driver who drove through just before the road was closed said the flames were almost touching the car. It was scary.
Some drivers decided to drive to Greymouth in the West Coast and across to Christchurch through Arthurs Pass. That added another 2 and a half hours to the trip. Others waited until 8pm or 9pm before being allowed through.
Many of the trucks were stock trucks, carrying sheep or cattle. This was a problem for the drivers as they could not leave the animals in the trucks for another 8 hours.
The fire in Hanmer Springs is now contained which means it is not spreading any more. However, there is a worry that high winds tomorrow could start the fire again.
Like the fire on the Port Hills in Christchurch, the long, dry grass burns easily. There has been very little rain for many months.
• coastal road – follows the east coast, beside the sea; opposite is inland road which travels through the centre of the South Island
• ferry – ship which travels between the North Island and the South Island, between Wellington and Picton
• stock – farm animals
• cattle – cows, bulls