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Fires Rage in Rural New Zealand

February 28, 1999

DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) _ Wildfires raged through a remote rural district of southern New Zealand on Sunday, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes, authorities said.

One man suffered a heart attack and died while checking a property threatened by fire, police said. There were no other deaths reported, and by late Sunday night the fires was believed to be dying down.

A civil defense emergency was declared for the Central Otago region on the South Island, and more than 150 people were evacuated from near the town of Alexandra as scrub fires, fanned by strong winds, blazed out of control near homes, fire officials said.

Four helicopters and two aircraft with water dumping equipment were used to fight the fires, which burned in areas left arid by recent hot and dry conditions.

About 40 army personnel with four water tankers had also been called in.

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