Hundreds of firefighters tackle wildfires in southern France

French firefighters are fighting to contain a large forest fire in the southern Var region that has forced the evacuation of thousands of people, including tourists in camps. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he will visit the area on Tuesday to monitor the situation.

Around 750 firefighters and water-throwing planes were fighting the blaze in difficult conditions, with high temperatures and high winds.

“Thousands of people have been evacuated as a precautionary measure, but there are no casualties,” said a fire service spokeswoman, Delphine Vienco, adding that the fire “remains very fierce.”

Southern France is the most recent area around the Mediterranean basin to be hit by wildfires this summer, a seasonal phenomenon, which climate scientists warn will become increasingly common due to man-made global warming.

Large fires have already devastated parts of Greece, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Algeria and Morocco.

>> Wildfires and heat waves may be the ‘new normal’ as UN publishes damning climate report

The fire broke out Monday at a motorway stop about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of the port city of Toulon.

By Tuesday morning, it had already covered more than 3,500 hectares of forest and brush, according to the fire department.

“This is the area covered, but it is too early to estimate the burned area,” the spokeswoman said.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin

A major fire is underway in the Var with three unfavorable meteorological conditions. Le préfet du Var est sur place et je suis attention to the situation. Tout mon soutien aux 650 sapeurs-pompiers mobilisés cette nuit to protect the habitants. @ SDIS83 pic.twitter.com/BqmVpL0Vvg

– Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) August 16, 2021

‘Hard battle’

Evacuations have mainly taken place around Saint-Tropez and the villages of Le Mole and Grimaud, Vienco said.

“The fire is very big and spreads at a speed of four kilometers per hour, it is a very difficult battle.

“During the night we managed to prevent the fire from reaching Garde-Freinet”, a town about 20 kilometers from Saint-Tropez.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin will travel to the areas on Tuesday afternoon.

The Var prefecture confirmed that several camps were evacuated and asked people to avoid congestion of the roads around the Gulf of Saint-Tropez so that emergency services can access the area.

The evacuees were housed in municipal buildings in the region.

Hot and arid south-east France, which regularly experiences forest fires during the summer, has been relatively spared so far this year.

According to the Prometheus database on forest fires in the Mediterranean region, the total area burned in France in the four affected regions was 2,336 hectares by 2021, compared to 7,698 for the whole of 2020.

Last year, a fire devastated 1,000 hectares in a popular tourist region west of Marseille.

At least 2,700 people, including many tourists, had to be evacuated, some by sea.

(AFP)

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