Thousands evacuated as hundreds of fire fighters battle fire in southern France
Thousands of people have been evacuated since Monday in southeastern France to escape a rapidly-advancing wildfire. The evacuations in the coastal Var department took place in the hinterland, particularly around the villages of Grimaud and La Môle, near Saint Tropez. Twelve campsites were also evacuated, the Prefecture said. The fire broke out on Monday, 16 August 2021, at the Sigues motorway service area, about 100km north-east of Toulon. By early morning on Tuesday, it had travelled 22 kilometres and burnt 5 000 hectares of forests. About 100 houses were damaged and two people have been found dead. At least 24 people including five fire fighters were slightly injured, most suffering from smoke inhalation.
Some 750 fire fighters were battling the blaze overnight. Their ranks were swollen by a further 150 fire fighters in the morning as well as 120 gendarmes sent in to secure the area.
Four fire fighting aircraft, a helicopter and two Dash aircraft, which drop fire retardant, were also deployed on Tuesday to assist them.
The fire service said that "the conditions are unfavourable with a strong wind and high temperatures."
The Var is among just two departments under yellow warning on Tuesday morning because of heatwave conditions.
Several roads have been closed with the authorities urging people to not impede access for emergency services to take pictures.
The French fire is believed to have started near a motorway stop some 30 kilometres northwest of Saint-Tropez. "We've never seen it spread with such speed, it was three or four times the usual," Thomas Dombry, mayor of La Garde-Freinet village.
Authorities were counting the cost to the environment even as the fires still raged Tuesday. "Half of the Plain des Maures nature reserve has been devastated," Concha Agero, deputy director of the French Office of Biodiversity, said Tuesday. Charred power lines lay on the ground Tuesday and many trees were burnt around their trunks but their branches were intact, suggesting the fire had ripped through at speed. But after a calm night on Tuesday, technicians Wednesday began trying to restore phone and electricity lines.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who came to support the rescue efforts on Tuesday, said that "the next few hours" would be "absolutely decisive" in tackling the fire.
Many Mediterranean countries have been hit by raging fires this summer, which were fuelled by scorching temperatures, including Greece, Italy, Algeria, Spain, Turkey and Morocco,
More than 100 000 hectares were scorched in Greece in what Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described as the "worst ecological disaster" in decades.
Source: Euro News, France 24