Two people were killed in a wildfire that broke out near the French Riviera. The fire was fueled by wind gusts and drought and was still burning Wednesday. More than 1,100 firefighters battled the flames, while thousands of tourists and residents were evacuated to safer places.
The fire began Monday evening at 40 km (24 miles) inland of Saint-Tropez, a coastal resort. Local officials said that the fire was sparked by strong winds from the Mediterranean Sea and had already burned 7,000 hectares (17.300 acres) of forest by Wednesday morning.
Evence Richard, the Var region’s prefect, stated that two people had been killed. According to the local prosecutor, the bodies were discovered in a house that had been set on fire near Grimaud. The victims have been officially identified by an investigation.
According to the Var region prefecture, at least 27 people have been affected by the fire, five of them firefighters. Due to thick smoke, authorities closed a highway north from the fire area Wednesday afternoon.
You can see huge water-bombing aircrafts soaring down from the Gulf of Saint-Tropez to fill up their stomachs with water and then dump it across the flaming Riviera backcountry.
New risks were presented at the end of the day, as the airborne fight against the flames by nine water-dropping planes and two fire retardant-spreading planes must cease at night. From France and other parts of France, reinforcements were arriving to provide firefighters with periodic rests.
The prefect tweeted that about 10,000 people fled their homes, camps, and hotels due to the wildfire, forcing them to seek temporary shelters. Over 1,000 people stayed at Bormes-Les-Mimosas, a beachside resort where they were provided food and water.
Vassili Bartoletti, a Frenchman from northeastern France and his family were evacuated from the campground where they were vacationing early Tuesday morning.
“Around midnight, someone knocked on our door and asked us to take our belongings with them and leave. According to The Associated Press, we could see red flames at the end of the alley. “So we fled quickly.”
Bartoletti stated that his 6-year-old son was anxious about the fire.
“I showed him my map. He said that we were far from each other and had been relocated to a safer place in Bormes-Les-Mimosas.
The family was vacationing on the Italian island Sardinia when a three-day-old fire broke out in the area where they had rented their house. Although they were not forced to evacuate, they endured smoke in their air and witnessed water-dumping aircrafts and helicopters flying back and forth.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been vacationing in a nearby coastal fortress, visited the fire zone on Tuesday and praised the firefighters for their work.
French officials warned that fire danger would continue to be high due to hot and dry weather through Wednesday. Recent days have seen temperatures of 40° Celsius (104 F).
Wildfires have swept across the Mediterranean region in recent weeks, leaving areas in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Algeria and Spain in smoldering ruins. In Greece on Wednesday, a major wildfire northwest of Athens, the capital, decimated large tracts of pine forest for a third straight day.
In Albania, hundreds of hectares (thousands of acres) have been set on fire in the past month. A former deputy minister was arrested Wednesday for arson.
Authorities in Spain’s central region of Castilla y Leon stated that firefighters had set up a perimeter around a blaze which has claimed at least 12,000 hectares (29.565 acres) this week. After securing 300 hectares (740 acres), of farmland, a fire broke out on the Canary Islands.
While the Mediterranean is known for its sunny, hot summers, scientists voice little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving extreme events such as heat waves, droughts and wildfires. They believe that such hardships will become more frequent as the Earth warms.