Holidaymakers flee as fires rage in south­ern France

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Over 10,000 peo­ple, in­clud­ing thou­sands of holidaymakers, were evac­u­ated from camp­sites and homes in south­ern France as fire­fight­ers yes­ter­day bat­tled the lat­est in a string of huge blazes along the Mediter­ranean coast. The new fire broke out Tues­day night af­ter France asked for Europe’s help to tackle the flames al­ready rag­ing in sev­eral spots on the tin­der-dry south, in­clud­ing near the pop­u­lar Riviera re­sort of Saint-Tropez. Fire­fight­ers are also battling fires on the French Mediter­ranean is­land of Cor­sica and in Por­tu­gal.

About 3,000 of those evac­u­ated from the pic­turesque coastal vil­lage of Bormes-les-Mi­mosas were tourists stay­ing in camp­grounds, some of whom ended up spend­ing the night in sleep­ing bags on the beach. Vil­lage mayor Fran­cois Arizzi said be­tween 10,000 and 12,000 peo­ple had been moved to public shel­ters but that some had pre­ferred to sleep in their cars. Lisa Mi­nor, travel edi­tor of Bri­tish tabloid The Sun, who was in the area on a fam­ily hol­i­day, tweeted pictures of orange smoke bil­low­ing from a ridge be­hind her camp­site and of bleary-eyed fam­i­lies packed into a beach­front creche. “Sirens still go­ing off. Some info would be nice. Winds still high,” she wrote.

‘Work of ar­son­ists’

The head of the res­cue op­er­a­tion, Serge La Vialle, told AFP that more than 550 fire­fight­ers backed by five water bomber air­craft had not yet man­aged to con­tain the blaze. “It’s mov­ing slowly and even grow­ing a bit,” he said. France’s Cote d’Azur bulges in July and Au­gust as holidaymakers head to the beach.

Bormes-les-Mi­mosas “dou­bles or triples its pop­u­la­tion in sum­mer”, a lo­cal fire of­fi­cial said. The area is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a par­tic­u­larly hot and dry sum­mer that has made it es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble to fires. Arizzi told French ra­dio he be­lieved Tues­day night’s blaze, which started in a car­a­van stor­age de­pot, was the work of ar­son­ists. Other fires have been blamed on dis­carded cig­a­rettes. Over 4,000 fire­fight­ers and troops backed by 19 water bombers have been mo­bilised to fight the fires that first be­gan Mon­day, fanned by strong winds. At least 12 fire­fight­ers have been in­jured and 15 po­lice of­fi­cers af­fected by smoke in­hala­tion, ac­cord­ing to the au­thor­i­ties. The blazes have de­voured around 5,000 hectares (15 square miles) of land along the coast, in the moun­tain­ous in­te­rior and on the is­land of Cor­sica. France on Tues­day asked its EU part­ners to lend it two ex­tra fire-fight­ing planes, the first of which ar­rived quickly from Italy.

A trade union­ist de­nounced what he said was a lack of spare parts pre­vent­ing all of France’s own air­craft re­quired from be­ing put into ac­tion. In­te­rior Min­is­ter Gerard Col­lomb an­nounced on Tues­day that France would be adding six more fire­fight­ing planes to its fleet. —AFP

BORMES LES MI­MOSAS: Peo­ple leave the beach with their be­long­ings as a fire burns a for­est be­hind them. —AFP

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