Lake Ōhau blaze: Firefighters face 'challenging day' as strong winds hamper efforts

Fire crews are continuing work on the Lake Ōhau fire on Tuesday morning as strong winds continue to blow through the district.

Hundreds were forced to flee when the early morning blaze ripped through the village early on Sunday, destroying more than 40 houses.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand says strong winds overnight have caused several flare-ups.

"Helicopters are not currently able to fly due to the strong winds. This will be reassessed if the weather changes.

"It will be a challenging day for firefighters."

On Monday, the Lake Ōhau community got their first look at what was left of their homes as they were taken through the township on buses. Waitaki District Mayor Gary Kircher, who joined the residents, told The AM Show it was one of the hardest things he has done.

Kircher said it was shocking even for those who knew their houses were gone.

"There were certainly a few tears along the way and just absolutely brought home how dramatic this was in people's lives.

"To actually see just this pile of corrugated iron lying on a concrete pad - it was just surreal." 

Kircher said the council is supporting residents as best as it can at this time.

Lake Ōhau blaze: Firefighters face 'challenging day' as strong winds hamper efforts
Photo credit: George Heard/Newshub.

"We're talking about what we might be able to do just to facilitate some of the process of clean-up."

Residents from the village may be allowed to visit their homes on Tuesday if conditions are safe. Speaking from near the scene of the fire on Tuesday morning, Newshub reporter Kaysha Brownlie said winds in the area were still strong.

"Firefighters are preparing for another long day," Brownlie said. "They've now got a containment line around the fire and deployed a drone overnight to look for any hotspots.

"Crews are also working to clear any hazards near undamaged homes like damaged trees, loose debris and iron." 

But the good news is rain has started to fall at the scene. MetService is forecasting a patchy drizzle to remain about the Canterbury High Country on Tuesday afternoon.