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New Zealand wildfire expected to burn for weeks

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By Agence France-Presse

A large New Zealand wildfire is expected to burn for weeks longer but has moved away from some inhabited areas, allowing residents of an evacuated village to return home soon, firefighters said Monday.

About 3,000 inhabitants of Wakefield, just outside Nelson at the top of South Island, were ordered out Saturday as flames razed bushland within two kilometres (1.2 miles) of their homes.

The fire erupted early last week amid scorching conditions in the heavily forested area and by early Monday had swept through an estimated 2,300 hectares (5,700 acres).

Fire chief John Sutton said that although conditions had eased, the blaze remained unpredictable and it was too early to say it was under control.

“There’s still an enormous amount of heat there and there’s a lot of unburned areas,” he told reporters.

“So although we might be turning a corner, there will be firefighters working on that fire until well into March.”

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