The Port Hills – a ruined landscape
The whole of New Zealand has watched on 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, and the cause of all that smoke.
1800 hectares, or 18 square kilometres, 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 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.
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It's an odd sort of devastation. 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 everything around it is obliterated. Other times, 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 on Thursday morning, destroying everything it touched, before suddenly retreating 15 minutes later.
A chaotic, powerful force of nature which takes hundreds of people, thousands of hours and millions of dollars to control.