‘Fierce’ French wildfire forces evacuations near Saint-Tropez

Strong winds have fanned the flames of the first major summer wildfire in France

French firefighters battled to contain a raging wildfire near the glitzy Mediterranean resort of Saint-Tropez on Tuesday, with thousands of residents and holidaymakers forced to evacuate. 

Roughly 1,000 firefighters were using high-pressure hoses, aircraft and helicopters in an attempt to control the flames, which began racing through the scrubland and trees of the Plaine des Maures nature reserve on Monday evening.

While Macron added that “the battle is ongoing and the fire has not yet been contained, stabilised,” he said that the firefighters’ courage had managed to “avoid the worst” with no casualties so far.

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“There’s not much we can do beyond protecting human lives and homes,” he said.

“The situation isn’t as worrying as last night, but it remains a concern,” he said.

Among them were 1,300 people staying at a campsite in the village of Bormes-les-Mimosas down the coast from Saint-Tropez.

Others loaded up their cars and headed for safety, leading officials to plead for people in secure areas to stay at home and avoid blocking roads used by the emergency services.

President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte are on holiday at the nearby Bregancon Fort and he announced he would visit the scene later Tuesday.

Large blazes have already ravaged parts of Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania, Northern Macedonia, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco this year.

Around 600 firefighters in Portugal were also battling a fresh blaze in Castro Marim in the Algarve region on Tuesday, a tourist hotspot in the far south of the country close to the border with Spain.

– ‘Such speed’ –

The wind-fanned blaze had ripped through some 6,500 hectares of forest and scrubland by Tuesday, according to the fire department.

Authorities were counting the cost to the environment even as the fires still raged Tuesday.

Charred power lines lay on the ground Tuesday, as well as vines in place.

The fire came close to La Garde-Freinet during the night but spared the settlement, which was badly hit in 2003 by a catastrophic blaze that cost the lives of three firefighters.

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