A fire tornado near Lake Ohau, Canterbury. Photo credit/ Newshub.
Eleven helicopters and seven ground crews are battling a fire at Lake Ohau, Canterbury.
The fire, which Fire and Emergency NZ was alerted to in the early hours of Saturday morning, is burning over approximately 1600 hectares.
At least 20 homes have been damaged or destroyed in Lake Ohau Village. A search and rescue team will be deployed to make a full assessment of the village.
"All residents are accounted for and we will have crews in the village overnight in case of any flare ups,," Fire and Emergency NZ's incident controller Graeme Still said.
Due to the high winds, it has so far been unsafe for residents to return to their homes to assess damage.
"I am very mindful of how upsetting it is for the residents. Their safety is our main concern at this time."
Crews are working to steer the fire away from other structures and critical infrastructure, including the main power lines servicing Queenstown and Wanaka.
High winds mean that the fire cannot yet be contained with Fire and Emergency cautioning that the situation could change rapidly with a shift in the wind.
As well as the fire crews and helicopters, two diggers and a grader are working to create firebreaks to help safeguard critical infrastructure.