France wildfire: Thousands evacuated as blaze rages near Riviera

Thousands of people, including tourists in campsites, have been moved to safety as firefighters tackle a wildfire close to the French Riviera.

Many were given only minutes to leave as hundreds of firefighters were deployed in the Var region to the west of Saint-Tropez.

Aug 17, 2021: Thousands of people, including at least 2,000 holidaymakers, were evacuated from their accommodation in south-east France on Tuesday.

Fire officials say the blaze broke out on Monday and has consumed more than 5,000 hectares (12,350 acres).

Nineteen people suffered smoke inhalation and three have been injured.

BBC TV presenter Geeta Guru-Murthy described fleeing on foot as flames approached on both sides of the road.

The fire ignited during an intense heatwave, with forecasters expecting temperatures of up to 35C on Tuesday.

Southern France is the latest area in Europe to be ravaged by wildfires this summer as temperatures soar to record levels around the Mediterranean.

Scientists say heatwaves are becoming more likely and more extreme because of climate change driven by human-induced carbon emissions.

Greece, Turkey, Spain and Portugal are among the countries that have been grappling with wildfires that have claimed lives and destroyed homes.

The blaze in southern France started near the village of Gonfaron, about 50km (30 miles) west of of Saint-Tropez.

By Tuesday morning, it had swept across more than 5,000 hectares of forest and scrubland, the local fire department said.

Firefighting aircraft dumped water to help douse the flames. Var’s local government said 900 firefighters and 120 police had been deployed.

Most of the evacuations took place around the villages of Le Mole and Grimaud.

Seven campsites were cleared of tourists, the local prefect told BFMTV, and some were destroyed by the fire as the flames – fanned by strong winds – spread rapidly.

Guru-Murthy described how she and her family had tried to escape with their car in Cogolin, just to the west of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, but the flames became too intense.

“We tried to turn around and the car went into a ditch, so we had to run a mile in the only direction we could go to, with huge fires on both sides of the road,” she said.

Tourists and residents in those areas have been sheltering in town halls, collages and gyms. Holidaymakers told French media they were evacuated from hotels at short notice.

France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said he would travel to the scene of the fire on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in southern Portugal, hundreds of firefighters were struggling to control a blaze that prompted the evacuation of around 60 people in the Algarve region.

The fires comes a week a major United Nations report warned of more extreme weather events because of global warming.

Elsewhere in Europe, flash floods have hit both Austria and northern Italy.

Aug 12, 2021: Italy sees ‘Europe’s hottest ever temperature’ as wildfires rage

Austrian emergency services rescued dozens of people trapped in cars and buildings after a storm triggered flash floods and mudslides in the Pongau and Pinzgau areas near Salzburg. A bus was destroyed by the flooding.

Similar rescue operations were necessary in parts of northern Italy, where flood water swept away cars and uprooted trees.

Some of the worst flooding was in the village of Sonico in Lombardy where the river Oglio burst its banks. In South Tyrol, near the border with Austria, dozens of people had to be helped to safety while others were told to stay in their homes.

Published by amongthefray

News with a historical perspective. Fighting against misinformation, hate, and revisionist history.

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