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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 January 2006, 15:50 GMT
French fight New Caledonia fires
Fires have been blazing for a week
Stretched local fire crews had appealed to the French government for help
Firefighters from France and Australia are helping tackle forest fires that have been blazing for a week in the Pacific territory of New Caledonia.

France, which administers the island, sent an 82-strong team to the capital Noumea on Sunday to help local crews.

Last week, stretched local fire-fighters appealed to the French government for help.

Two Australian water-carrying helicopters have also been deployed to help douse the blazes.

Fires outside the capital Noumea have mostly been extinguished but others further north continue.

Officials said the fire-fighting effort was being hampered by strong winds.

The fires are believed to have already destroyed around 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres) of the tropical rainforests that surround the capital.

Environmental groups are warning of a disaster facing the territory.

The World Wildlife Fund say many species of small birds and insects are threatened by the fires.

New Caledonia is located east of Australia, and contains about 25 percent of the world's known nickel reserves.





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